Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council will renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which expires on 15 November.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, will brief the Council on the latest developments and the MINUSCA report.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the CAR continues to deteriorate outside of the capital, Bangui. Various national and regional peace and reconciliation initiatives have not gained momentum. The government, led by President Faustin Archange Touadéra, has minimal control outside of 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.
Fighting between ex-Séléka factions and Christian-dominated anti-Balaka armed groups is further exacerbated by inflammatory sectarian rhetoric. According to the Secretary-General’s latest MINUSCA report of 18 October, growing intercommunal violence with ethnic and religious undertones heightens the risk of mass atrocities along those lines. The Secretary-General thus notes that the window for reversing hatred and violence is shrinking.
Armed groups have continuously targeted MINUSCA, resulting in the death of 12 peacekeepers in 2017. Humanitarian workers are also under attack, with 12 killed. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced people has increased by 200,000 in 2017 to a total of 600,000.
In an effort to draw attention to the fragile situation in the country that, in his words, “is often far from the media spotlight”, Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in CAR on 24 October, “United Nations Day”. After a meeting with Touadéra and members of government in Bangui on 25 October, the Secretary-General stressed the need to strengthen MINUSCA so it can better protect the population. He further warned of religious divisions in the country that are a result of “political manipulation that must be condemned and avoided at all costs”. Later that day he travelled to Bangassou where he honoured Moroccan and Cambodian peacekeepers killed earlier this year and visited the compound of a Catholic church in Bangassou, where 1,200 Muslims are taking refuge. He then returned to Bangui to meet with UN humanitarian and development workers and civil society.
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 produce concrete plans to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR. The Secretariat later 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. In the meantime, Council members postponed discussion of a troop increase until the mandate renewal.
The MINUSCA report notes that while the mission is trying to adapt to the situation, the escalation and spread of violence across the CAR has left MINUSCA overstretched. In light of the security and political situation, the Secretary-General recommends that MINUSCA focus on its support for the political process, both nationally and locally, on protection of civilians, and on facilitating conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Other tasks should be streamlined and adjusted, taking into account the capacities of other international actors and establishing a clear division of labour. In addition, the Secretary-General recommends an increase in the troop level by 900 military personnel, stressing that —while this will not allow MINUSCA to protect all civilians in the country—it can provide the force with greater ability and flexibility to respond to developing events. In addition, the report says that the increase could help facilitate better conditions for the establishment of state authority in more areas and convince armed groups to participate in the political process.
The report mentions steps that are being taken to implement the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR. In addition, the Secretary-General intends to carry out a critical assessment of MINUSCA’s contingents in early 2018 to examine possible linkages between their performance and conduct.
The Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee will submit its final report to the committee in November. The committee will then meet with the panel to discuss the report later in the month or in December.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 27 September, CAR President Touadéra addressed the Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 36th session. Taking note of mass violations of human rights, violations based on gender, and the use of child soldiers by armed groups in the CAR, he highlighted the creation of a National Human Rights Commission based on the Paris Principles; it was expected to begin its work in October. Also on 27 September, the HRC held an interactive dialogue with Marie-Thérèse Keita-Bocoum, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, and considered her report (A/HRC/36/64). The report describes increased human rights violations, the re-recruitment of thousands of children, the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and the failure of peace and reconciliation initiatives.
On 29 September, the HRC adopted, without a vote, a resolution extending the mandate of the Independent Expert for one year and deciding to hold a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the human rights situation in the CAR, with an emphasis on the impact of peace and reconciliation efforts, during the HRC’s 37th session (A/HRC/RES/36/25).
Key Issues and Options
The need 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 is of key concern to the Council. In this context, the renewal of MINSUCA’s mandate will afford opportunities to adjust the mandate and clarify its main priorities. The Council may revise MINUSCA’s mandate while also authorising additional troops for MINUSCA as part of its response to the ongoing security and political situation.
During the renewal process, Council members could request the Secretariat to report further on actions taken to improve the performance of MINUSCA’s contingents, including in the context of sexual misconduct.
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.
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.
In light of the grave situation, all Council members have expressed support for an increase in MINUSCA troop levels, in principle. Notwithstanding the US position, several Council members, including troop-contributing countries, reject steps that they perceive as singling out contingents and publicly shaming them. Thus, language with respect to general assessments of MINUSCA’s performance will be contentious and will require careful negotiation in order to achieve agreement on additional troops.
There also seems to be a general understanding that MINUSCA must prioritise some of its tasks within its very limited resources. That said, when negotiations start, disagreements may arise as to which tasks should be allocated fewer resources.
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.|
|18 October 2017 S/2017/865||Is a report about MINUSCA.|