Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In October, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will brief the Council on the latest UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) report.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2017.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has worsened as clashes continue among the Muslim-dominated ex-Séléka factions. Since November 2016, two factions in particular, the Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the CAR (FPRC), have been involved in heavy fighting amidst attempts to reunite the ex-Séléka. In addition, there has been continued fighting between ex-Séléka factions and Christian-dominated anti-Balaka armed groups, and anti-Balaka attacks against civilians and MINUSCA.
The deterioration in security has resulted in an increase in civilian casualties and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, increasingly along sectarian lines. On 22 August, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien briefed Council members under “any other business” on his recent visit to the CAR, lamenting that he has witnessed “early signs of genocide” in the country.
There are 600,000 people who are internally displaced, and roughly 450,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. The situation in Basse-Kotto is of particular concern; the UPC has been directly targeting civilians there since May, causing several hundred deaths, according to Amnesty International. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on 13 September that armed groups killed at least 25 people around the country in the span of a week. In Bangassou, 2,000 Muslims have taken refuge in a church because they fear local anti-Balaka rebels.
Humanitarian assistance in the country has been hampered by the violence and in some places has completely halted. On 3 August, six ICRC workers were killed in an attack on a health centre.
The government, led by President Faustin Archange Touadera, has minimal control outside the capital, Bangui, which is relatively calm. 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.
Touadera sacked his defence minister, Levy Yakete, in a move reported to be related to the growing violence. Yakete is on the CAR Sanctions Committee list for his role in the violence during the ex-Séléka coup.
MINUSCA’s roughly 10,000 military troops have been partially successful in protecting civilians but are stretched thin, and the level of performance between contingents has varied. They have also been directly targeted by rebel groups, resulting in the death of three Moroccan peacekeepers in two attacks in July. During his monthly luncheon with Council members on 17 August, the Secretary-General asked them to authorise an immediate increase in troop levels to help address the security situation. The US conditioned additional troops on the development of clear benchmarks for the performance of MINUSCA’s contingents. In addition, the US insisted that the Secretariat demonstrate concrete plans to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR. The Secretariat has informed Council members that in its next report it will provide them with more information regarding the troop increase and the issues raised by the US.
On 6 September, the CAR Sanctions Committee held a briefing open to the full UN membership to discuss the midterm report of the Panel of Experts assisting the committee. The report itself was submitted to the committee on 21 July. The report noted that illegal exploitation of natural resources remains a major source of income for armed groups, both for ex-Séléka factions in the east and local anti-Balaka groups in the west. In addition, the report found that implementation of sanctions remained weak. Travel ban violations by people on the sanctions list continued, including travel by former President François Bozizé. National authorities have failed to implement the assets freeze, and several listed individuals still collect government salaries. CAR officials continued to criticise the arms embargo, claiming it prevents the rearmament of national security forces. Noting that CAR may still arm its national forces by applying for exemptions from the committee, the panel maintains that some use this argument to blame the UN for the ongoing insecurity.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In his opening statement at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 11 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed alarm over deteriorating security conditions in the CAR and the “persistent reports of atrocity crimes, which have pushed the country very close to a complete breakdown along religious and ethnic lines”. Intensifying violence has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee, and increasing attacks against aid workers have forced a number of humanitarian organisations to suspend life-saving activities, he said.
During its 36th session, the HRC held an interactive dialogue with the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, and considered her report (A/HRC/36/64). The report, covering July 2016 to June 2017, concluded there was an increase in human rights violations, mostly perpetrated by ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka armed groups, including killings, acts of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual violence, abductions, deprivation of liberty and arbitrary arrest, extortion and looting, recruitment and exploitation of children, the occupation of schools and health centres and attacks on them, and denial of humanitarian assistance.
Key Issues and Options
The immediate priority for the Council is to respond to the increased fighting between rebels, attacks against civilians along sectarian lines and the targeting of MINUSCA personnel and other UN and humanitarian personnel.
The Council could authorise additional troops for MINUSCA as an immediate response to the violence prior to or during MINUSCA’s mandate renewal in November. During this process, Council members could request the Secretariat to report on actions taken to improve the performance of MINUSCA’s contingents.
The Council could also consider acting through the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, listing additional individuals and entities, particularly those with links to recent attacks, in an effort to curb violence. To improve sanctions implementation, the Council could call on countries in the region to cooperate with each other and implement the sanctions regime in order to eliminate arms trafficking to rebel groups and the funding of their operations through illicit exploitation of natural resources.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The deteriorating security situation and the government’s inability to project law and order beyond Bangui continue to concern all Council members.
Every Council member has expressed support for an increase in MINUSCA troop levels. In contrast to the US position, however, several Council members, including those that are troop-contributing countries, reject steps that they perceive as singling out contingents and publicly shaming them. Moving forward towards MINUSCA’s mandate renewal, any language with respect to benchmarks for the assessment of MINUSCA’s performance will be contentious and will require careful negotiation.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ukraine is the chair of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|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|
|13 July 2017 S/PRST/2017/9||This was a presidential statement that expressed concern at ongoing clashes between armed groups in the CAR and the targeting of civilians from specific communities, UN Peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|26 July 2017 SC/12930||The members of the Security Council condemned the attack on MINUSCA peacekeepers in Bangassou (Mbomou) on 25 July by suspected anti-Balaka elements, which resulted in two Moroccan peacekeepers killed and one injured, two days after the attack that led to the death of another Moroccan peacekeeper.|
|24 July 2017 SC/12926||This was a press statement condemning the attack on a MINUSCA convoy in Bangassou (Mbomou) on 23 July by anti-Balaka elements that resulted in one peacekeeper killed and three injured.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|11 August 2017 SC/12952||This was a press release drawing attention to the recommendation contained in the midterm report concerning exemptions from sanctions.|
|3 August 2017 SC/12943||This was a press release concerning the committee’s 21 July meeting with its Panel of Experts, where the panel’s midterm report was presented the committee.|
|26 July 2017 S/2017/639||This was a midterm report of the CAR Sanctions Committee.|