February 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2020
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council will meet to discuss the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which is due by 15 February. The Council will be briefed by Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and Head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye. Representatives from the AU and the European External Action Service may also brief.

The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2020. The mandate of the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime expires on 31 July 2020.

Key Recent Developments

The Political Peace Agreement in the CAR was signed in Bangui by the CAR government and 14 armed groups on 6 February 2019. Since then, there has been a notable decrease, compared to the previous year, in military confrontations between armed groups, CAR security forces and MINUSCA and in human rights violations linked to the conflict. However, the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, which was presented to the committee on 2 December 2019, determined that the implementation of the peace agreement “remained limited”. The report said that many civilians continue to experience general insecurity as armed groups violate the agreement in large numbers, including through violence against civilians, illegal taxation, and obstruction of the deployment of state institutions and security forces.

In recent incidents, clashes that broke out on 24 December 2019 in the PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui between local traders and armed gangs resulted in at least 40 deaths, according to media reports. On 9 January, clashes between members of an armed group associated with the ex-Séléka coalition and CAR armed forces in the city of Alindao led to the death of two servicemen from the CAR armed forces and the displacement of 400 civilians. Inter-tribal clashes were reported on 20 January in the north-eastern town of Birao near the CAR-Sudan border, raising concerns that more civilians from the CAR will seek refuge in Sudan in the coming weeks. Furthermore, clashes between armed groups in the eastern city of Bria on 25 January resulted in at least 50 deaths, according to media reports.

The humanitarian situation in the CAR remains dire, with OCHA estimating that approximately 2.6 million people—over half of the population—will need humanitarian assistance in 2020.

In December 2020 and early 2021, the CAR is set to hold presidential, legislative and local elections. Regional and international partners view these elections as a crucial juncture in the CAR’s political development. The Security Council therefore decided last year in resolution 2499 renewing MINUSCA’s mandate until 15 November, to authorise a role for MINUSCA in supporting the CAR authorities in preparations for the elections.

The return of former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia to the CAR on 15 December 2019 and 10 January, respectively, has raised concerns about their possible destabilising effect on the already fragile political climate in the CAR. Bozizé, who was listed under Security Council sanctions for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of CAR” in 2014, stated during a press conference on 27 January that he sees no reason that would prevent him from becoming a candidate in the upcoming elections.  Such a dynamic can serve to increase political tensions and undermine the authority of incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, further complicating the implementation of the peace agreement.

On 21 January, Touadéra met with Bozizé and Djotodia, along with former heads of state Catherine Samba-Panza and Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet. In a joint press release issued after the meeting, the AU, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the UN welcomed the exchanges between Touadéra and the four former heads of states and stated that these exchanges will contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in the CAR. They further urged the acceleration of the implementation of the peace agreement, and called for the holding of free, credible and transparent elections in the CAR. In that regard, the statement appealed to the international community to mobilise around funding and support for the electoral process.

Sanctions-Related Developments

In resolution 2488 of 12 September 2019, the Council amended the arms embargo on the CAR government. The resolution exempts, after notifying the committee, supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended for humanitarian or protective use and supplies to the CAR security forces of weapons with a calibre of 14.5mm or less that are intended solely for the support of or use in the CAR process of security sector reform. The resolution also requested that the Secretary-General update the Security Council on the progress achieved by the CAR authorities on the key benchmarks established in its presidential statement of 9 April 2019, such as the effective implementation of the National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation.

In his report of 31 December 2019, the Secretary-General determined that the government of CAR made “some progress” on the arms embargo benchmarks while emphasising the need for continued support by the Council and international and regional partners. Progress was made between June and December 2019 in the disarmament and demobilisation of 1,094 combatants in the western CAR. The Secretary-General reported that notwithstanding these developments, disarmament and demobilisation timelines are not being met since several groups have yet to demonstrate their commitment to disarm.

On 31 January, the Security Council adopted resolution 2507 which renewed the mandate of the CAR sanctions regime for a period of six months, until 31 July 2020. The resolution incorporates the provisions of resolution 2488 (2019) and provides for a further easing of the arms embargo on the CAR government. The resolution exempts, after notifying the CAR sanctions committee, supplies to the CAR security forces of unarmed ground military vehicles and ground military vehicles mounted with weapons with a calibre of 14.5 mm or less that are intended solely for the support of or use in the CAR security sector reform process.

Key Issues and Options

Monitoring the implementation of the CAR peace agreement and ensuring that credible and transparent elections are held remain vital priorities for the Council. Monitoring the process leading up to the elections will also be a priority. Members might consider adopting a statement urging the parties to fully implement the peace agreement. Such a product might also seek to demonstrate the Council’s unified support for MINUSCA and its work to facilitate the electoral process.

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. Several Council members are of the view that the sanctions regime continues to promote security in the CAR and can also serve to pressure the parties to implement the peace agreement. The difficult negotiation on the resolution renewing the mandate of the CAR sanctions regime ahead of its 31 January expiry demonstrated that opinions continue to diverge regarding the further lifting of the arms embargo on the CAR authorities. While Russia and China hold the view that more progress should be made towards the complete lifting of the embargo, other members feel that easing the arms embargo does not correspond with current realities in the country. Such a dynamic might make it difficult for the Security Council to maintain unity on issues relating to the CAR portfolio.

France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR

Security Council Resolutions
15 November 2019S/RES/2499 This extended the mandate of MINUSCA and the authorisation to use all means to provide operational support to MINUSCA until 15 November 2020.
12 September 2019S/RES/2488 This resolution amended the CAR sanctions regime for CAR security forces.
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.
Security Council Letters
31 December 2019S/2019/1008 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.
6 December 2019S/2019/930 This letter contained the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee.