Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will be briefed on the latest report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), due by 15 October.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November and the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime expires on 31 January 2020.
Key Recent Developments
The Political Peace Agreement in the CAR was signed by the CAR government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February, following negotiations in Khartoum that began on 24 January under the auspices of the AU. A new cabinet, in which all 14 armed groups are represented, was formed on 22 March.
This is the latest of several peace agreements that have been signed in the CAR, over some years, between the government and armed groups, and it remains to be seen if and how it will be fully implemented. According to the Secretary-General’s latest MINUSCA report, military confrontations have subsided, but armed groups have been violating the agreement through violence against civilians, illegal taxation, and obstruction of the deployment of state institutions and security forces. In addition, some armed groups have attempted to obtain further concessions in the peace process through violent means.
The 30 July midterm report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee pointed out that the most serious incident since the signing of the February agreement was committed by the 3R (Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation) rebel group in Ouham-Pendé Prefecture on 21 May 2019, with targeted attacks against civilians killing at least 42 persons. In an incident in Birao near the Sudanese border on 14-15 September, at least 23 rebels were killed when fighting broke out between two groups that are signatories to the peace agreement. The fighting caused the displacement of 13,000 people. In comments made on 16 September following her visit to the CAR, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller noted that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance stands at 2.9 million, an increase of 400,000 in the last year.
On 27 September, A MINUSCA helicopter crashed in the western town of Bouar, killing three Senegalese peacekeepers.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on 26 September with the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Marie Thérèse Keita Bocoum, and considered her report (A/HRC/42/61). The report, covering July 2018 to June 2019, said that “the number of violations remained high until the end of 2018 and then fell sharply in the first half of 2019…[with] this decrease attributable in part to the absence of major confrontations between rival armed groups or attacks on the civilian population, and to the signing of the Peace Agreement on 6 February”. The HRC is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the independent expert.
On 31 January, in resolution 2454, the Council renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2020. The resolution expressed the Council’s intention to establish “clear and well-identified key benchmarks…that could serve in guiding the Security Council to review the arms embargo measures on the Government of the CAR”, based on an assessment of progress on the benchmarks, to be carried out by the Secretary-General. The Council enumerated the benchmarks in a presidential statement on 9 April.
The Secretary-General’s 31 July assessment of progress found that the CAR is committed to achieving the necessary progress against the benchmarks. At the same time, considerable challenges remain. The assessment also noted that armed groups continue to receive weapons trafficked illegally through countries in the region. While the CAR security forces can receive weapons and ammunition for its forces under the exemption and notification requirements of the arms embargo, the rebels possess new and higher-calibre weapons than those of the security forces. This disparity in weaponry contributes to a perception in the country that the arms embargo is prejudiced against the government, according to the assessment.
On 12 September, the Council amended the arms embargo in resolution 2488. Most of the arms embargo, including on the CAR security forces, remains in place, but there are now exemptions, after notifying the committee, for supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use and supplies to the CAR security forces of weapons with a calibre of 14.5 mm or less that are intended solely for support of or use in the CAR process of security sector reform. Under the previous regime, these supplies to the CAR security forces required prior approval by the committee.
The chair of the Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué (Côte d’Ivoire), intends to visit the CAR in October.
Women, Peace and Security
In his latest report on the CAR, the Secretary-General said reports about armed groups perpetrating conflict-related sexual violence have continued. Most violations were attributed to ex-Séléka groups. The Secretary-General noted that MINUSCA partnered with women’s organisations on the monitoring and reporting of sexual- and gender-based violence and also with regard to awareness-raising events in different communities.
On 26 March, MINUSCA conducted training on the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence and respect for international human rights law with several combatants–the Mouvement patriotique pour la Centrafrique, Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique and anti-Balaka fighters in Batangafo, Ouham prefecture. These groups are listed in the annex of the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence as “parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council”.
Key Issues and Options
Monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement is a key priority as violence continues and signs grow of half-hearted commitment by rebel groups. A credible threat of targeted sanctions might provide an incentive for armed groups to truly commit to the process, and sanctions against those responsible for attacks against civilians, MINUSCA and humanitarian workers might also help to curb violence. Furthermore, targeting actors who enable the economic activities of armed groups and the flow of arms might further pressure them to adhere to the agreement.
In the longer term, the Council will need to assess whether the situation on the ground requires changes in MINUSCA’s mandate.
On the arms embargo, the Council may continue to monitor progress in order to make possible adjustments when the current sanctions on the CAR expire.
Council and Wider Dynamics
All Council members share the hope that the peace agreement will improve the situation and restore peace and security in the CAR, and agree that without MINUSCA’s presence there would be a serious security vacuum in the country. Some Council members also see MINUSCA’s presence as a vital element in helping to keep rebel groups committed to the political process. MINUSCA’s mandate renewal will be an opportunity for the Council to consider whether MINUSCA can play a greater role in supporting the wider political process, including by providing technical and logistical support for the scheduled legislative and presidential elections in 2020-2021.
On sanctions, while there was not much disagreement on easing the arms embargo on the CAR security forces in resolution 2488, Council members seem to diverge on the possibility of further adjustments when the regime expires on 31 January. After the adoption of the resolution, France, for example, stated that the resolution reflects the will of the CAR while Russia said that the CAR government expects more adjustments to the regime, which Russia supports. The representative of the CAR called the easing of the sanctions a step towards the possible lifting of the arms embargo in its entirety.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Ambassador Kacou Houadja Léon Adom (Côte d’Ivoire) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 September 2019S/RES/2488||This resolution amended the CAR sanctions regime for CAR security forces.|
|31 January 2019S/RES/2454||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 Central African Republic Sanctions Committee.|
|15 November 2018S/RES/2446||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 December.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|9 April 2019S/PRST/2019/3||This was a presidential statement establishing benchmarks for suspending or progressively lifting arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR.|
|20 June 2019S/2019/498||This was the Secretary-General’s report on MINUSCA.|
|Security Council Letters|
|30 July 2019S/2019/608||This letter contained the midterm report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee.|
|26 July 2019S/2019/609||This letter contained the Secretary-General’s assessment of progress achieved on the key benchmarks the Council established on arms embargo measures in the CAR.|
|15 February 2019S/2019/145||This was the Secretary-General’s letter containing the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 September 2019S/PV.8617||This was the meeting at which resolution 2488 was adopted.|
|30 September 2019|