February 2018 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2018
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In February, the Special Representative to the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, will brief the Council on the latest developments and the most recent MINUSCA report, due on 15 February. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita is expected to participate in the consultations after the briefing. 

Key Recent Developments

The security situation outside of the capital, Bangui, is dire. Self-proclaimed self-defence groups, loosely connected to some members of the anti-Balaka movement, have continued to operate in the south-east of the CAR and are targeting Muslims. Ex-Séléka factions continue to establish illegal parallel administration and taxation structures in areas under their control, preying on the population.

An acute crisis situation has also developed in the north-west of the country where more than half the population has been displaced. Since the end of December 2017, two armed groups, the Revolution and Justice (RJ) and the Mouvement de la libération de la Centrafrique (MNLC) have clashed to the north of Paoua, in the north-west. Both are trying to control lucrative road checkpoints where large herds of cattle pass through on their way to neighbouring Chad. According to UNHCR, local authorities report that as of 23 January some 15,000 houses have been burned and 487 people killed. The fighting has displaced more than 65,000 people who are now seeking refuge in Paoua, which previously had only 40,000 inhabitants. An additional 17,000 have fled to Chad since the beginning of the year due to the recent violence. An unknown number of people have sought refuge in the bush.

According to UNHCR, the total number of internally displaced people increased from 400,000 in May to 688,700 at the end of 2017, in addition to 542,380 refugees hosted in neighbouring countries.

On the political front, various national and regional peace and reconciliation initiatives have failed to gain momentum. The government, led by President Faustin Archange Touadéra, has minimal control outside 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.

Armed groups continue to target humanitarian workers and MINUSCA peacekeepers, resulting in the death of 14 peacekeepers in 2017. Most recently, anti-Balaka elements killed a Mauritanian peacekeeper and wounded three others on 4 December 2017 in Bria in the east.

The Council adopted resolution 2387 on 15 November 2017, renewing the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2018. The priority tasks of the mission include the protection of civilians, support for the peace process, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In addition, the resolution increases MINUSCA’s troop ceiling by 900 troops to a total of 11,650 military personnel. In his regular reporting on MINUSCA, the Secretary-General is to include the outcome of a performance review of MINUSCA’s contingents no later than the end of the first quarter of 2018.

The Secretary-General is also to keep the Council informed through his reports on MINUSCA about the mission’s progress in implementing a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and on reviews pursuant to resolution 2272 of 11 March 2016. The resolution requests the Secretary-General to replace a troop-contributing country (TCC) when it has not taken appropriate steps to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse or when the particular TCC has not held the perpetrators accountable.

An independent special investigation appointed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, to look into attacks on civilians that occurred between 1 May and 31 August 2017, announced its main findings on 24 January. It found that while MINUSCA has a well-established protection of civilians strategy and functioning early warning mechanisms, these did not translate into preventive actions and there were deficiencies in civil-military-police planning, and operations. Additionally, gaps were identified with regard to contingents’ training and understanding of protection of civilians.

French magistrates decided on 15 January to end proceedings against French soldiers accused of allegedly abusing children in the CAR, citing insufficient evidence. The Guardian reported that an internal UN investigation recorded detailed testimony from children in the CAR who said they were sexually abused between December 2013 and June 2014 by French troops deployed in the CAR as part of the Council-authorised French intervention force and by soldiers from the Chad and Equatorial Guinea contingents of the AU peacekeeping mission before it was re-hatted into MINUSCA.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 4 December 2017, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee met with its Panel of Experts to discuss the final report of the panel and hear briefings by the UN Mine Action Service and UN Institute for Disarmament Research on weapons and ammunition management in the country.

The report recommended that the committee encourage MINUSCA to report any acts of incitement to ethnic or religious violence and hatred, and to identify the perpetrators or instigators. It further recommended that in the next resolution extending the sanctions regime, the Council include designation criteria for individuals and entities inciting ethnic or religious violence and hatred, as well as justifying such acts. Also, the panel recommended that the committee encourage neighbouring states to take effective action to counter the illicit flow of weapons and ammunition into the CAR.

In a press release on 28 December 2017, the committee emphasised the recommendation of the panel that it was important that states ensured that all funds, financial assets, and economic resources of listed individuals and entities be frozen without further delay.

The committee met for the first time under the chairmanship of Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué (Côte d’Ivoire) on 26 January in an open briefing. The Coordinator of the Panel of Experts, Romain Esmenjaud, briefed the Council.

The Council adopted a resolution on 30 January 2018, renewing the sanctions regime until 31 January 2019 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 28 February 2019. On top of the existing designation criteria, the resolution decided that individuals who commit acts of incitement to violence, in particular on an ethnic or religious basis, and then engage in or provide support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the CAR may also be sanctioned.

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.

The Council could consider acting through the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, listing those with links to recent attacks and civilians, in an effort to curb violence, and including individuals who have incited ethnic or religious violence.

The performance of MINUSCA’s contingents has not been uniform, with some contingents accused of being overly passive and ill-equipped, while others are alleged to have committed SEA. Council members could consider reports from the Secretariat on the performance of MINUSCA’s contingents, including in the context of sexual misconduct.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The deteriorating security situation and the government’s inability to project law and order beyond Bangui continue to worry all Council members. During the negotiations over MINUSCA’s mandate renewal, all Council members agreed that an increase in troop numbers and streamlining MINUSCA’s mandate to focus on a few priority tasks was necessary.

However, there continues to be a rift in the Council with respect to the Council’s involvement in oversight of specific contingents generally, and with respect to SEA in particular, and the publicity of such oversight. The US, with the support of other Council members, has been pushing for closer scrutiny of contingents and greater accountability, while TCCs and those supporting them on the Council view this approach as an attempt to shame and blame them for the more general shortcomings of the mission.

France is the penholder on the CAR, and Côte d’Ivoire chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
Security Council Resolutions
15 November 2017 S/RES/2387 This resolution renewed the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2018.
Security Council Press Statements
28 December 2017 SC/13147 This emphasised the importance of freezing the assets of listed individuals.
Sanctions Committee Documents
28 December 2017 SC/13147 This emphasised the importance of freezing the assets of listed individuals.
15 December 2017 SC/13123 This was a statement on the CAR Sanctions Committee meeting with its Panel of Experts to hear briefings on weapons and ammunition management in the country.
6 December 2017 S/2017/1023 This was the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee.