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), and the authorisation for French forces in the CAR to use all means to support MINUSCA at the request of the Secretary-General, which expire on 15 November.
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 armed factions, which are largely Muslim, have retained, if not strengthened, their positions and influence in their respective strongholds and continue to benefit from illicit taxation and illegal exploitation of natural resources. The government, led by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, remains largely unable to establish state authority, thus undermining its legitimacy in the eyes of the population.
According to the latest MINUSCA report, the number of security incidents has decreased since 15 June, and civilian deaths linked to the conflict have decreased since January, primarily owing to a decline in intercommunal violence. Documented human rights violations and abuses by armed groups and security forces have increased considerably, however. Since 15 June, MINUSCA has documented 597 new cases of grave human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, with 1,077 victims. On 16 October, open media sources reported that at least 30 civilians were killed in August and September by armed groups in and around Bria.
Intercommunal violence between pastoralists and farmers continued in some areas, with frequent attacks on civilians and MINUSCA, which has been severely hampered by its absence from some of those areas and the extremely difficult road and logistics conditions, the MINUSCA report said. It noted record levels of displacement, with more than 616,000 internally displaced persons and 572,062 refugees in neighbouring countries on 1 October.
On 23 October, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Special Representative and head of MINUSCA; Ambassador Léon Houadja Kacou Adom (Côte d’Ivoire), the chair of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee; Special Representative of the AU to the CAR Bédializoun Moussa Nébié; and Koen Vervaeke, the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Service, briefed the Council. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix participated in the consultations that followed.
Onanga-Anyanga presented the latest MINUSCA report, which includes the main findings and recommendations of the recent strategic review of MINUSCA initiated by the Secretary-General. It suggests that the UN, and MINUSCA in particular, should have a stronger role in the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR, led by the AU and attended by 14 armed groups, and that the mission’s efforts should be closely aligned to the initiative. The report further notes that “an inclusive and transparent electoral process leading up to the 2020–2021 elections can serve as an integral part of the political process”, adding that such “support also remains essential for the eventual exit of MINUSCA.”
The report thus recommends that MINUSCA’s mandate be renewed at current troop levels, maintaining the current priority mandated tasks of MINUSCA, “to support the political process, protect civilians and facilitate the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance…while strengthening its mandate related to its political support” for reconciliation efforts and security strategy. The report recommended that the Council authorise MINUSCA to support the electoral process through providing good offices; technical, operational, logistics and security support; and capacity-building, “particularly to the National Election Commission for the planning and conduct of the next presidential, legislative and local elections” and coordination of international electoral support.
Furthermore, the report recalls and asks the Council to approve the 15 May request of the Secretary-General that the Council authorise MINUSCA to provide limited operational and logistical support for the CAR security forces trained by the EU Military Training Mission for a period of 12 months, under certain conditions, including that the security forces be vetted and would uphold the principles of accountability and the rule of law. It asserts that MINUSCA is overstretched and will shift to a more dynamic posture in order to enhance its security efforts without a troop increase.
Adom, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee chair, visited the CAR from 2 to 5 October, accompanied by experts from France, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, the US and Russia. He met with government officials and other stakeholders to discuss the sanctions regime and its implementation. The main issue discussed was the CAR’s continuing request to lift the arms embargo, a step the Council has been reluctant to take because of lack of progress in security sector reform and vetting of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA). During the visit, Council members were told that while CAR security forces are insufficiently equipped, lack of implementation of the arms embargo by neighbouring states has allowed for a regular flow of arms and ammunition to rebel groups, creating an imbalance of firepower. He updated the Council on his visit during the 23 October briefing.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 28 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted without a vote a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the CAR, (A/HRC/RES/39/19). The resolution renewed the mandate of the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, for one year and requested an oral update from her at the HRC’s 41st session in June 2019 and a written report at its 42nd session in September 2019. It also decided to “organise, at its 40th session in March, a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the human rights situation in the CAR with an emphasis on the participation of civil society, especially women’s organisations and representatives of victims, in the peace and reconciliation process.” The independent expert and representatives of the government of the CAR, the UN, the AU and civil society are expected to participate.
Issues and Options
The main priority for the Council will be to renew MINUSCA’s mandate. The Council may mandate MINUSCA to provide limited operational and logistical support to the CAR security forces, as recommended by the Secretary-General. It may further strengthen MINUSCA’s political mandate, in particular on electoral assistance.
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. A credible threat of sanctions might also incentivise armed groups to commit to reconciliation.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The deteriorating security situation, with its intercommunal undertones, has slowed reconciliation efforts, and the government’s inability to project its control beyond Bangui and Bambari has been a continuing matter of concern for the Council.
The likely sticking point for Council members in negotiating MINUSCA’s mandate renewal is the issue of support for the CAR security forces, as security sector reform, including the vetting of personnel, has gone slowly. The EU members of the Council would like to see MINUSCA cooperate with FACA units trained by the EU Training Mission. As the Secretary-General has noted that MINUSCA is already overstretched, some Council members question MINUSCA’s ability to expand its tasks when it is already experiencing difficulties in fulfilling its mandate. On top of this, the US is pushing for austerity and efficiency in peacekeeping rather than expanding existing mandates. At the same time, MINUSCA support for vetted and trained FACA units could assist in mitigating FACA’s shortage of weapons and equipment.
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.|
|15 October 2018 S/2018/922||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the CAR.|
|30 August 2018 S/2018/800||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSOM and UNSOS.|
|Security Council Letters|
|15 May 2018 S/2018/463||This was a letter on MINUSCA support for the CAR security forces.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 October 2018 S/PV.8378||This was a briefing on the latest MINUSCA report.|