July 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2016
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In July, Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Anyanga will brief on the strategic review of the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

The Council is due to renew MINUSCA’s mandate, which expires on 31 July.

Key Recent Developments

March marked the end of the period of office of the transitional political government in the Central African Republic (CAR), which began in April 2013 and was initially due to expire after 18 months. On 1 March, the Constitutional Court confirmed that former Prime Minister Faustin Archange Touadéra had been elected president after winning a runoff election on 14 February. On 27 January, the transitional constitutional court nullified the results of legislative elections held on 30 December 2015 because of massive irregularities. After a new round of elections, the National Assembly opened its first extraordinary session on 3 May.

MINUSCA’s mandate was originally due to expire on 30 April. Council members discussed the MINUSCA mandate renewal under “any other business” on 17 March. France proposed a technical rollover of MINUSCA’s current mandate until the end of July. France reasoned that this would allow time for consultations between MINUSCA and the incoming government on adapting the mission’s mandate to the post-transition period. It would also allow time for a strategic review of MINUSCA to inform Council members’ deliberations on a new mandate. On 26 April, the Council adopted resolution 2281, which extended MINUSCA’s mandate until 31 July and requested the Secretary-General to complete a strategic review of its mandate by 22 June.

While many view the electoral process as an overall success, the security and humanitarian situations in the CAR remain dire. Though attacks by rebel groups have waned, Muslim-dominated ex-Séléka and Christian anti-Balaka factions still control vast parts of the country, and some of their elements have been unwilling to engage in dialogue with transitional authorities. Criminality is on the rise, and the numbers of refugees who have fled the CAR (roughly 468,000) and of internally displaced people (IDPs, roughly 415,000) are not decreasing.

This status quo means that the potential for an upsurge in violence is very present. On 10 June, fighting broke out between groups supported by the anti-Balaka elements and herders supported by the ex-Séléka in Ouham Pende Prefecture in the north-west. The fighting resulted in more than ten casualties, as well as property burnt and looted. In addition, several thousand people were displaced from their homes, including some who have fled into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

Fighting also erupted in the Muslim PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui on 20 June, when ex-Séléka elements took six police officers hostage. MINUSCA released a statement the following day saying that a “hostile and armed crowd” had fired upon peacekeepers trying to evacuate police officers, and three civilians were killed in the cross-fire. A peacekeeper was wounded by a grenade in the exchange. 

On 17 June, unidentified gunmen killed a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) driver northeast of Bangui. A similar incident resulted in the killing of another MSF driver north of Bossangoa on 18 May.

The Council held a ministerial-level open debate on the protection of civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations on 10 June. Touadéra was among those who addressed the Council. He said that the continued presence of the armed groups — the anti-Balaka, ex-Séléka and the Lord’s Resistance Army—poses the most serious threat to the protection of civilians and security in the CAR. Other threats include a drop in agricultural production, forced displacement and rampant crime. Thus, he continued, the protection of civilians should remain MINUSCA’s main priority. Touadéra added that justice in the CAR must be served in order to combat impunity and promote human rights, and in that regard requested the international community to assist with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court (a hybrid court to be composed of both domestic and international personnel).

Touadéra met with the Secretary-General on the same day, after which the latter commended the former’s outreach to armed groups and his spirit of national reconciliation and inclusiveness.

Council members received the MINUSCA strategic review on 22 June. The report notes that there are improvements in the security and economic situation and that Touadéra enjoys overall legitimacy among the population. It identifies the continuing operation of armed groups as the main impediment to the consolidation of peace in the country. Accordingly, the strategy consists of three main pillars. On the political front, the report calls for supporting government dialogue with armed groups, addressing the root causes of the conflict and establishing state authority throughout CAR. Regarding security, the report recommends a strong protection of civilians emphasis, including applying pressure on armed groups and support for security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs. Furthermore, the report calls for support for justice and reconciliation efforts. The review does not recommend a change in troop numbers, though it says that in later stages more police units and fewer military units may be warranted.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 29 April, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee held a meeting with representatives of the EU regarding the activities of the European External Action Service to establish the EU training mission in the CAR.

On 18 May, the Committee met with the Panel of Experts assisting it for an update on its work. During the meeting the Committee was also briefed by several Secretariat officials on the situation in the CAR ahead of the 25-27 May visit to the country by the Committee’s Chair, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine).

On 13 June, the Committee met to discuss Yelchenko’s trip, on which he was accompanied by the Ukrainian and French CAR experts and the Committee’s Panel of Experts. Yelchenko reported that he met, among others, with Touadéra, Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji and several government ministers in Bangui. The officials stressed the need to address the security situation as a priority and the importance of SSR. They said that the arms embargo is an obstacle to revamping the CAR security sector. Yelchenko noted that the sanctions regime allows for exemption requests. He said those would be positively considered by the Committee, which must agree by consensus to any exemptions or changes to the regime.

Yelchenko then visited the town of Bambari to the east. Ex-Séléka rebels control some parts of the town, which MINUSCA troops do not patrol. Yelchenko met with local authorities and visited an IDP camp, conveying the Committee’s commitment to the country and concern over the situation in the CAR. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

The independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, conducted her seventh visit to the country from 10 to 20 June. On 28 June, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with Bocoum. She will submit her written report in September.

Key Issues

Renewing MINUSCA’s mandate with modifications reflecting the end of the transitional phase and the establishment of newly elected executive and legislative bodies will be an immediate task for the Council in July.

Continuous monitoring and close attention by the Council to the security situation and political developments will be an ongoing issue.

Options

The resolution renewing MINUSCA’s mandate could:

  • follow the priorities identified in the strategic review;
  • call on MINUSCA to develop a long-term deployment plan, including a future exit strategy;
  • call on MINUSCA contingents to adopt a proactive approach to expand areas under its control, and for the Secretariat to provide the mission with appropriate capabilities;
  • call on countries in the region to play a constructive role in the political dialogue; and
  • recommend an increase in the police component of MINUSCA.
Council and Wider Dynamics

All Council members hope that the end of the transition period and the installation of the newly elected government will provide momentum to address some of the fundamental issues facing the country, including constructive dialogue with armed groups and their disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration; and, later on, SSR programs, accountability measures and re-establishing state authority and institutions, including incarceration facilities and judicial institutions.

With respect to the mandate renewal, it seems that there is a general consensus in the Council to proceed on the basis of the strategic review.

On sanctions, there does not seem to be any appetite among Council members to lift the arms embargo on the CAR government before the security sector has begun its reforms and it can be established that arms will not flow from government forces to rebel groups.

France is the penholder on the CAR and Ukraine is the chair of the Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
26 April 2016 S/RES/2281 This was a resolution that extended MINUSCA’s mandate until 31 July, and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of its mandate by 22 June.
27 January 2016 S/RES/2262 This resolution renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2017.
Security Council Press Statement
18 April 2016 SC/12329 This was a press statement condemning the killing of a MINUSCA peacekeeper.
Sanctions Committee Documents
14 March 2016 SC/12281 This was a press release on the CAR Sanctions Committee’s meeting with the head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga (via video teleconference from Bangui), and a representative of UNMAS.
21 December 2015 S/2015/936 This was the final report of the 2127 Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.