Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
The Political Peace Agreement in the Central African Republic (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 between the government and armed groups in the CAR since the current crisis began in 2013, and it remains to be seen whether it will be fully implemented. According to the Secretary-General’s 15 October MINUSCA report, military confrontations between CAR security forces and MINUSCA have subsided, and human rights violations linked to the conflict have decreased. However, armed groups have been fighting each other and violating the agreement through violence against civilians, illegal taxation, and obstructing the deployment of state institutions and security forces. The report noted that while the agreement has offered many civilians a reprieve from violence, the overall levels of violence remain worrisome, with women and children among the most affected.
In recent incidents, from 27 to 30 September, clashes between armed elements in the southern Kouango area claimed 14 lives and uprooted around 2,000 people from their homes. Unidentified armed men killed 12 people in a village outside the town of Bambari in the centre of the country on 10 October. Against the backdrop of continuing security concerns and lack of significant progress in the deployment of CAR security forces and expansion of state authority, MINUSCA continues to be the primary provider of security in the country. The Secretary-General thus recommended in his report that MINUSCA’s authorised troop strength be maintained.
According to his report, the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance has decreased from 2.9 million to 2.6 million, but a fifth of the population remains displaced, with 581,000 internally displaced people and over 605,000 refugees registered in neighbouring countries at 31 August. Meanwhile, the CAR continues to be one of the most dangerous places for humanitarian workers, according to OCHA, decreasing their ability to deliver assistance. Between January and September, three humanitarian workers were killed and 34 were injured in the country.
The Secretary-General recommended in his report that MINUSCA’s mandate to provide political, technical and operational support for the peace process, implementation of the agreement, and extension of state authority be reinforced “without caveats that could preclude MINUSCA from seeking resources commensurate to its tasks”.
From 5 to 7 October, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix; the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaïl Chergui; and the managing director for Africa in the European External Action Service, Koen Vervaeke, visited the CAR to take stock of the implementation of the peace agreement. They met with government officials, political parties and civil society. They called on all signatories to the agreement to respect their commitments and immediately end violence and promote dialogue. They stressed that those violating the agreement should be sanctioned and that MINUSCA should use its agile posture to safeguard the integrity of the agreement. They also encouraged the adoption of draft laws essential to holding peaceful, inclusive and credible elections.
Also in the report, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of holding presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for 2020 and 2021 on time to consolidate peace and ensure stability. He welcomed the promulgation of the electoral code into law on 20 August while noting with concern that preparations for voter registration, due to begin in January 2020, were already behind schedule. He further stressed that, given the limited capacity of the CAR and the country’s security challenges, MINUSCA’s strong support is essential throughout the electoral process. Accordingly, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council authorise MINUSCA to provide operational, logistical and security support for the elections and coordination of other international support as well as the necessary resources to perform these tasks.
The Special Representative for the CAR and head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye last briefed the Council on 25 October. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui and the EU External Action Service’s Director for Integrated Approach for Security and Peace, Stefano Tomat, also briefed, both via videoteleconfrence. Ndaye stressed that at the time of adopting MINUSCA’s current mandate, the extent of the logistical and technical means required for the implementation of the peace agreement, could not be foreseen. Therefore, he said, it is essential that MINUSCA be provided with a mandate and adequate resources to support the implementation of the peace agreement. Additionally, he asked the Council to mandate MINUSCA to provide the necessary technical, logistical, security and operational support for the conduct of the elections within constitutional deadlines.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution without a vote on 27 September on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the CAR (A/HRC/RES/42/36). The resolution strongly condemned killings; acts of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment; sexual violence; abductions; arbitrary arrests and deprivation of liberty; extortion and looting; the recruitment and use of children; the occupation of schools and attacks on them, on the sick and injured, medical personnel, health centres and medical vehicles as well as the denial of humanitarian assistance. It renewed, for one year, the mandate of the independent expert on human rights in the CAR. It also decided to organise, at its 43rd session in March 2020, a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the evolution of the human rights situation on the ground, placing special emphasis on preventing the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict.
Key Issues and Options
The immediate task for the Council is renewing MINUSCA’s mandate in November. Protection of civilians will remain a priority, but in light of the peace agreement, the Council will need to update language on MINUSCA’s support for the political processes in the CAR. It may choose to elaborate on MINUSCA’s political mandate, including in support of the agreement and local reconciliation initiatives.
The Council may also give MINUSCA responsibility for providing good offices and advising the CAR on electoral preprations. In addition, the Council may authorise MINUSCA to provide technical and logistical support to the electoral process.
More generally, monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement remains a priority as violence continues and rebel groups show half-hearted commitment. A credible threat of targeted sanctions against spoilers 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.
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 they agree that without MINUSCA’s presence there would be a serious security vacuum in the country. Some Council members also see MINUSCA as a vital element in helping to keep rebel groups committed to the political process. Despite this political achievement, Council members seem to share the view that the security situation has not changed significantly and that, accordingly, MINUSCA’s mandate should not be altered dramatically.
Several Council members see the mandate renewal as an opportunity for the Council to emphasise MINUSCA’s role in supporting the wider political process. Particularly, in light of the limited capacity of the CAR to conduct timely elections without MINUSCA and the negative impact on security and stability that might follow if elections are not held, some Council members are in favour of authorising MINUSCA to provide technical and logistical support for the scheduled legislative and presidential elections in 2020-2021. While this expansion of MINUSCA’s mandate will not necessarily prove controversial among Council members, some may be hesitant to add tasks that may require enlarging MINUSCA’s budget.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué (Côte d’Ivoire) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|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.|
|15 October 2019S/2019/822||This was on MINUSCA.|
|Security Council Letters|
|14 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|
|25 October 2019S/PV.8646||This was a briefing on the latest MINUSCA report.|