June 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2017
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In June, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, will brief the Council on the implementation of MINUSCA’s mandate. The briefing may also include a civil society representative.

The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2017.

Key Recent Developments

There has been a resurgence in violence in the CAR since February, primarily centred around Ouaka province. Clashes have continued between ex-Séléka factions, primarily the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic, and between the Muslim-dominated ex-Seleka factions and Christian-dominated anti-balaka armed groups. In addition to fighting between armed groups, there have been numerous reports of attacks against civilians.

Attacks against civilians appear to be increasingly along sectarian lines, with some predominantly Christian anti-balaka groups reportedly targeting Muslim communities. Over the weekend of 13-14 May, anti-balaka militants launched a concerted attack on Bangassou, which included the use of heavy weapons against the MINUSCA base, and against a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. The attack included deliberate measures to trap MINUSCA personnel and cut road access to the town, creating a period during which the Muslim population was defenceless. MINUSCA, employing an attack helicopter, subsequently retook the town. The Red Cross reported that at least 115 people had died in the fighting.

The attack against the MINUSCA presence in Bangassou is part of an increase in the deliberate targeting of MINUSCA personnel by anti-balaka militants. May marked MINUSCA’s highest casualty rate since the mission’s inception in 2014. On 9 May, five peacekeepers—four Cambodians and one Moroccan—were killed and eight others were wounded during an ambush on a MINUSCA convoy. In the attack on Bangassou, a Moroccan peacekeeper was killed on 13 May, and another was wounded the next day. The Council issued a press statement on 15 May strongly condemning that violence and the attacks on peacekeepers. 

Law and order remains limited across most of the CAR and is largely maintained by MINUSCA. The government, led by President Faustin Archange Touadera, has minimal control outside the capital, Bangui. Disarmament efforts have made only limited progress, and factions of the ex-Séléka and anti-balaka groups remain armed and in control of large areas of the country.

On 16 March, President Touadera and then Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on the situation in the CAR. The briefing followed an informal interactive dialogue on 13 March held with the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission and head of the AU Mission for the CAR and Central Africa, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt. The meeting, initiated by France, was an opportunity for Council members to receive information on a new mediation initiative for the CAR led by the AU and supported by the Economic Community of Central African States, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Angola, Chad, and the Republic of Congo.

The March discussions on the CAR were followed on 4 April by a presidential statement reaffirming the Council’s support for CAR President Touadera, expressing concern at the ongoing violence between armed groups, acknowledging reconciliation efforts, and condemning attacks against civilians. The delay between the March briefing and the issuing of the presidential statement was reportedly due to scheduling rather than any significant disagreement amongst Council members.

During the 23 May briefing on peacekeeping operations by force commanders, the MINUSCA Force Commander, Major General Balla Keïta, called for the Council to ensure that robust mission mandates were “translated equally into the political, administrative and legal arenas” and to adopt more tailored sanctions regimes.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 30 April, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee received a report on the arms embargo requested by Resolution 2339. The report outlined benchmarks to assess the arms embargo measures according to progress in the area of security sector reform, as well as additional information on the arms embargo working group that the Panel of Experts recommeded be potentially established within MINUSCA by the Security Council.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue at its 34th session with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, who provided an oral briefing following her eighth visit to the country. While commending institutional and legislative progress, including the appointment of the prosecutor to the special criminal court, Keita Bocoum stressed that the situation in the country remained very fragile, with insecurity being the greatest problem facing the civilian population. She noted that there had been no progress in expanding the effective authority of the government beyond Bangui and that the impunity enjoyed by armed groups represented a structural cause of violence in the country. Bocoum will present a written report at the HRC’s 36th session in September 2017, as mandated by HRC resolution 33/27.

In a statement on 16 May, the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at attacks by armed groups against civilians and UN peacekeepers in recent months, including in areas that had previously remained largely unaffected by violence and human rights abuses. According to MINUSCA’s human rights division, between March and early May more than 121 civilians and six peacekeepers were killed. The High Commissioner strongly condemned the violence, including the killing of peacekeepers, and labelled its spread “highly worrying”, saying it “should set off loud alarm bells”. 

Key Issues

The immediate priority for the Council is to respond to increased attacks against civilians along sectarian lines and the apparent targeting of MINUSCA personnel by anti-balaka fighters, and to ensure the safety and security of UN and humanitarian personnel.

The longer-term priority for the Council remains assisting the CAR in establishing security and state authority throughout the country and rebuilding basic infrastructure and institutions.

Options

The Council could issue a presidential statement that:

  • condemns the attacks against UN peacekeepers, humanitarian personnel and civilian populations and reaffirms the Council’s support for MINUSCA’s response to such threats; and
  • calls on countries in the region to cooperate and implement the sanctions regime in order to eliminate illicit arms trafficking to rebel groups and the funding of their operations through illicit exploitation of natural resources.

Another option for the Council, acting through the Sanctions Committee, is to sanction additional individuals and entities, particularly those with links to recent attacks.

A further option is for Council members to hold an informal meeting with MINUSCA troop- and police-contributing countries to hear their views and get a better understanding of what is needed to implement the mandate and ensure the safety of peacekeepers in the current security situation.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The optimism that followed the formation of the elected government in April 2016 has been eroded by the ongoing violence, by the lack of momentum towards improved governance, and by the government’s inability to project law and order beyond Bangui.  

In this context, several Council members are concerned by the difficulty MINUSCA has had in establishing and maintaining control over widespread areas, which, accompanied by the lack of state authority, has resulted in an unsustainable situation. Council members recognise that achieving peace and stability in the CAR will require a long-term effort, but the lack of progress in addressing root causes and in reconciling divided communities as well as the recent mission casualties leave Council members unsure about the best means to pursue this goal. 

Against the backdrop of the Council’s busy agenda and numerous high profile crisis, the CAR remains a low priority for the Council and for most Council members. This lack of attention is to the detriment of efforts to restore peace and stability in the CAR and risks allowing the threats to peace in the CAR and to MINUSCA to continue to grow.

France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ukraine is the chair of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents on Central African Republic

Security Council Resolutions
27 January 2017 S/RES/2339 This resolution renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2018 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 28 February 2018.
26 July 2016 S/RES/2301 The Council renewed the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2017.
Security Council Presidential Statements
4 April 2017 S/PRST/2017/5 This was a presidential statement condemning violence perpetrated by armed groups.
Secretary-General’s Reports
1 February 2017 S/2017/94 This was a report on the situation in the Central African Republic.
Security Council Meeting Records
23 May 2017 S/PV.7947 This was a briefing on peacekeeping operations by force commanders.
16 March 2017 S/PV.7901 Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and the CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera briefed the Council on the situation in the CAR.