Central African Republic
In June, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita is expected to brief on the latest developments in the country and the most recent UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) report, due on 14 June.
MINUSCA’s mandate expires on 15 November 2018.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is dire. Self-proclaimed self-defence groups, loosely connected to some members of the anti-Balaka movement, have continued to operate in south-eastern CAR, targeting Muslims. Ex-Séléka, largely Muslim factions, continue to establish illegal parallel administration and taxation structures in areas under their control, preying on the population.
Bangui has also seen more violence in recent months, increasingly along sectarian and inter-communal lines. On 10 April, 28 people died after MINUSCA and local security forces launched an operation to clear PK5, a Muslim neighbourhood, of armed groups, leading to deadly clashes. Blaming the UN for the events, demonstrators laid 17 bodies of those killed in front of MINUSCA’s headquarters. On 1 May, deadly violence erupted when the authorities attempted to arrest a member of an armed group in the PK5 neighbourhood. In the ensuing violence, a nearby church was stormed in the middle of a service, and 24 worshippers and a priest were killed. In response, a mob burned a mosque and lynched two people believed to be Muslim. In total, 26 people were killed and more than 170 injured from the violence that day.
The security situation in Bambari, located in the centre of the country, where MINUSCA has a significant presence, has also deteriorated. On 15 May it was reported that members of the Union for Peace (UPC), one of the groups forming the ex-Séléka coalition, attacked the mayor’s office, police and radio stations, and a MINUSCA base. MINUSCA launched an operation in response the following day, and eight people were killed during the fighting.
Armed groups continue to target humanitarian workers and MINUSCA peacekeepers. On 3 April, a Mauritanian peacekeeper was killed and 11 injured in an attack on a MINUSCA base in Tagbara, northeast of Bambari, by suspected anti-Balaka elements. Another Mauritanian peacekeeper was killed and eight were injured in an attack on a convoy they were escorting in the town of Alindao, southeast of Bambari, on 17 May. The Council issued press statements condemning both attacks.
Council members were briefed on the latest violence in the country on 23 May under “any other business” via video teleconference by the Special Representative and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga.
In accordance with resolution 2387, the Secretary-General submitted to the Council on 16 May recommendations regarding possible support for the redeployment of the CAR security forces. The report recognised that such support should only be given on specific conditions, including that the security forces are inclusive and ethnically representative, have been vetted, and uphold the principles of accountability and the rule of law. It recommended that the Council authorise MINUSCA to provide limited operational and logistical support to the CAR security forces trained by the ongoing EU Military Training Mission for a period of 12 months. It stressed that without this support, the ability of the CAR to restore peace and establish state authority would be undermined.
The country also continues to face an acute humanitarian crisis. According to a report released by OCHA on 10 May, there were 687,398 internally displaced persons and 568,572 refugees in neighbouring countries at the end of March.
On the political front, peace and reconciliation initiatives have failed to gain momentum, and the government, led by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, has minimal control outside Bangui. The African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR has advanced the implementation road map for Peace and Reconciliation endorsed by the AU in July 2017, launching the second round of consultations with 14 armed groups in late February. In a 27 February press statement, Council members reaffirmed their support for the initiative as the main framework for a political solution in the CAR.
On 23 February, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee met to discuss the Panel of Experts’ progress report. The coordinator of the panel said that armed groups continue to strengthen their grip over large parts of the CAR with a view to increasing their leverage in the political process. On 16 March, the panel briefed the committee on its work programme. The committee met to discuss the Panel of Experts’ latest progress report on 25 May.
Human-Rights Related Developments
During its 37th session, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on 21 March with the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, who visited the country from 6 to 16 February to assess the impact of the AU’s peace initiative on human rights. In a press release following her trip, Bocoum called for an urgent need to reinstate the criminal justice system, saying that “mob justice is in effect replacing state justice in some areas”, and urged national authorities and civil society to explore options for a road map on transitional justice and to consider national consultations and collective reparations.
In a 9 May statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed “deep alarm at the volatile situation in the CAR, particularly given the worrying hate speech and incitement to violence on the basis of religion, as well as the recent killings and attacks in Bangui”, referring to the 1 May attack in Bangui. The statement stressed that the recent violence must not be allowed to undermine the peace process facilitated by the AU.
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 serious concern to the Council. As part of its efforts, the Council may amend MINUSCA’s mandate to provide operational and logistical support to the CAR security forces, as requested by the Secretary-General.
In an effort to curb violence, the Council could consider acting through the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, listing those with links to recent attacks on civilians, including individuals who have incited ethnic or religious violence. Sanctions may also be effective in incentivising armed groups to commit to reconciliation.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The deteriorating security situation and the government’s inability to project law outside of Bangui and Bambari have been a continuing matter of concern for the Council. After a period of relative calm, these issues have resurfaced in Bangui and Bambari, despite the presence of MINUSCA. Moreover, part of the population sees MINUSCA as a culprit, blaming the mission for the violence and for inability to prevent it.
The issue of support for the CAR security forces has been a sticking point for Council members, as security sector reform, including the vetting of personnel, has gone slowly. In light of this, during negotiations over resolution 2387, Council members disagreed over whether MINUSCA should be assisting the authorities with personnel who have been linked to human rights violations, while faced with the reality that MINUSCA is unable to be present in large parts of the CAR without the deployment of these forces. Regularly monitored, and limited support may prove to be an acceptable middle ground. Additionally, some Council members will want to receive more precise information on the resources that will be required to fulfil the request, along with its merits.
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|
|30 January 2018 S/RES/2399||This was a resolution renewing the 2127 CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2019.|
|15 November 2017 S/RES/2387||This resolution renewed the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2018.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|17 May 2018 SC/13346||This was a press statement condemning a 17 May attack by anti-Balaka elements on a MINUSCA convoy, resulting in one Mauritanian peacekeeper killed and eight injured.|
|11 April 2018 SC/13291||This was a press statement condemning a 10 April attack on MINUSCA in Bangui by armed groups, which resulted in one Rwandan peacekeeper killed and eight others injured.|
|3 April 2018 SC/13275||This was a press statement condemning the attack on a temporary operating base of MINUSCA in Tagbara by suspected anti-Balaka elements, which resulted in one Mauritanian peacekeeper killed and 11 others injured.|
|6 March 2018 SC/13236||This was a press statement condemning an attack against education workers near Markounda on 25 February by unknown assailants, which resulted in the killing of one UNICEF education consultant, two officials of the Ministry of Education of CAR, and three members of a UNICEF national partner organisation.|
|Security Council Letters|
|16 May 2018 S/2018/463||This was a letter on MINUSCA support for the CAR security forces.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|26 April 2018 SC/13320||This was a press statement on an amendment to a listing of an individual on the sanctions list.|
|7 March 2018 SC/13239||This was a press statement on the 23 February committee meeting on the Panel of Experts’ progress report.|