Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In February, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), will brief the Council on the MINUSCA report, due on 15 February. The chair of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee Ambassador Léon Houadja Kacou Adom (Côte d’Ivoire) will also brief.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is dismal. Self-proclaimed self-defence groups, loosely connected to some members of the largely Christian 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 outside a few urban areas, thus undermining the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the population.
The 14 December 2018 report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee noted that ex-Séléka leaders have opposed the ongoing redeployment of the CAR Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) in their areas of influence, asserting that this should only be done after the signing of a comprehensive agreement.
Humanitarian workers continue to be at risk in the CAR. On 5 January, a humanitarian worker was killed in Batangafo town, Ouham prefecture. In 2018, 396 incidents against humanitarian personnel and assets were recorded, compared to 337 incidents in 2017. Against this backdrop of violence, 2.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children; that total represents more than 63 percent of the population.
On 13 December 2018, the Council adopted resolution 2448, renewing the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2019. This followed a “technical rollover” of the mission for a period of one month in resolution 2446 of 14 November. Resolution 2448 authorises MINUSCA to enhance planning, technical assistance and limited logistical support for the redeployment of vetted CAR security forces trained by the EU Military Training Mission (EUTM), in accordance with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. The resolution clarifies that this should be carried out “by reallocating approved resources”.
In accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary-General, MINUSCA will support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR, led by the AU and in which 14 armed groups participate, and will collaborate with the African Initiative to ensure that the mission’s political and security strategies promote a coherent peace process that connects both local and national peace efforts.
During the negotiations, Russia insisted that the text reflect its expanding role in training and arming the CAR security forces as well as a Russian-brokered meeting in Khartoum between anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka representatives, which ended with a 29 August declaration of commitment to peace in the CAR through the establishment of the “Central African Forum” as a framework for communication. Though several Council members were adamant that the African Initiative be referred to as “the only framework for a comprehensive political solution”, the resolution refrains from stating the need to avoid parallel initiatives, as was the case in earlier resolutions, but rather calls for “strengthen[ed] coordination of all efforts and initiatives under the leadership of the African Union” to reflect Russia’s concerns without specifically mentioning the “Central African Forum” initiative. It also refers to coordination with EUTM “and other international partners, including France, the Russian Federation and the United States” in security sector reform.
Russia and China abstained on the vote. Russia said that resolution 2448 failed to welcome “peace initiatives that align with and contribute to” the African Initiative and that it does not reflect the Russian contribution to security in the CAR by training the FACA, while bolstering the contribution of the EUTM.
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members on 21 January about his recent visit to Bangui. He informed them about the start of open-ended negotiations between the CAR government and armed groups, which were set to take place in Khartoum on 24 January, as part of the AU initiative, and have been ongoing at press time. Lacroix and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui have been attending the talks.
The final report of the Panel of Experts states that armed groups nominally committed to the African Initiative continue to commit gross violations of human rights and have yet to take concrete steps towards disarmament. Ex-Séléka factions continue to acquire illicit trafficked weaponry and to resist state authority in areas under their control.
On 21 January, the sanctions committee met with the CAR minister of defence, Marie-Noëlle Koyara. Koyara briefed Council members on weapons storage facilities in the CAR and reiterated CAR’s long-standing request that the arms embargo on the country be lifted. On 29 January, the committee held a meeting with representatives of neighbouring countries to discuss the panel’s final report.
At press time, the Council was scheduled to adopt a resolution to renew the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts on 31 January.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, visited the country from 15 to 25 January. The visit focused on assessing the protection and promotion of the rights of children, youth and women, as well as the level of consultation in the peace and reconciliation process and any achievements in the area of transitional justice since her last visit in June 2018. In March, the Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold a high-level interactive dialogue on human rights in the CAR during its 40th session.
Issues and Options
Following the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate, the Council will monitor its implementation, including progress in assisting the CAR in expanding state authority to more parts of the country and MINUSCA’s assistance to the EUTM-trained FACA deployment.
Progress on the political track and support for the African Initiative are central issues, and under resolution 2448, MINUSCA is to play a more significant part in its facilitation. A related issue revolves around the armed groups and their commitment to the political process. A credible threat of sanctions might provide an incentive for armed groups to commit to reconciliation, and sanctions against those responsible for attacks against civilians, MINUSCA and humanitarian workers might also help to curb violence. Furthermore, targeting actors that enable the economic activities of armed groups may further pressure them to a seek a reconciliation.
In addition, as the Council considers the option of easing the arms embargo on the CAR security forces, as requested by the CAR, the sanctions committee will need to monitor the effects of this possible shift.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The negotiations over MINUSCA’s mandate renewal proved difficult and exposed differences of views between the permanent members. Russia’s insistence that its political role and military assistance to the CAR be reflected in Council outcomes creates a new dynamic, reflecting Russia’s increasing interest in the region.
Russia’s more vocal stance and the positions of several current elected Council members have also manifested themselves in the Council’s position over lifting the arms embargo on the CAR. In the past, and despite the explicit position of the CAR government, the P3, along with several other Council members, were of the view that limited progress in security sector reform did not allow for lifting the arms embargo. This position faced little pushback from other Council members. More recently, some Council members have expressed the view that that the CAR’s wishes should be respected Though a resolution on renewing the sanctions regime, including the arms embargo, had yet to be adopted by press time, this shift in positions has played a significant role in the negotiations over the draft resolution. .
Holding the latest African Initiative meetings in Khartoum, which previously hosted the Russian-sponsored talks, may alleviate concerns over competing reconciliation efforts, at least for the time being. While Council members are hoping that these talks are a pathway to a peace agreement, there are still serious concerns over the genuine commitment to reconciliation of participating armed groups.
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|
|13 December 2018S/RES/2448||The Council extended the mandate of MINUSCA and the authorisation to use all the means to provide operational support to MINUSCA until 15 November 2019.|
|15 November 2018S/RES/2446||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 December.|
|30 January 2018S/RES/2399||This was a resolution renewing the 2127 CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2019.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 December 2018S/PV.8422||The Council renewed the mandate of MINUSCA.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|14 December 2018S/2018/1119||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on the Central African
Republic extended pursuant to Security Council resolution