Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold a videoconference 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 June. The Council will be briefed by Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA, and Matias Bertino Matondo, AU Special Representative and head of the AU Office in the Central African Republic.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November. The CAR sanctions regime expires on 31 July and the mandate of the panel of experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August.
Key Recent Developments
Though there has been an overall decrease in violence since the Political Peace Agreement was signed on 6 February 2019 in Bangui, violent incidents and human rights violations continue, according to the Secretary-General’s 14 February report. Full implementation of the peace agreement, the report notes, has been delayed because of a lack of good faith by armed groups, 14 of which signed the agreement with the CAR government. Briefing the Council on 20 February, Ndiaye highlighted “significant advances in the implementation of the peace agreement” but warned that persistent violations of the agreement by some armed groups raised concerns about “pockets of instability” throughout CAR.
On 15 March, a MINUSCA peacekeeper was killed when elements of the anti-Balaka, one of the signatories to the peace agreement, launched an attack on the central CAR town of Grimari. In a separate incident on 15 March, another peacekeeper was injured when his patrol on the Ndélé-Birao axis came under attack by elements of two armed groups. A civilian CAR staff member of MINUSCA was killed in Ndélé on 7 March. The Security Council issued a press statement on 16 March condemning the attacks.
According to media reports, seven of the 14 armed groups that signed the 2019 peace agreement announced on 25 April that they were suspending participation in both the government and peace agreement implementation mechanisms, citing the government’s “fail[ure] to seize the opportunity offered by the agreement to get the country out of the crisis”. Since this announcement, the situation in and around Ndélé has deteriorated: violent clashes between rival armed groups began on 29 April and continued through 9 May, leaving at least 27 civilians dead, 56 people injured and over 2,000 displaced. And, in early May, ten attacks against humanitarian organisations took place in Ndélé, which resulted in the temporary suspension of all humanitarian aid to the town. Approximately 12,000 internally displaced persons remain in need of assistance in Ndélé. According to OCHA, throughout CAR approximately 2.6 million people require humanitarian assistance, with 669,000 civilians internally displaced and another 593,000 people seeking refuge outside CAR. MINUSCA announced on 17 May that it was launching Operation “Igana siriri“ (“Bringing Peace” in the local Sango language) in Ndélé to help stabilise the situation. According to MINUSCA, the operation, which is being carried out jointly with Central African armed forces, aims to “restore a safe and secure environment in and around the city [of Ndélé], to ensure the protection of civilians”.
Despite security concerns and an uptick in violence, presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for December 2020 and early 2021. At his Council briefing in October, Ndiaye warned that “a serious delay in holding the next elections could create a vacuum at the highest echelon of the State and lead to another political transition that… would be harmful to the consolidation of democracy, stability and peace”. During his last Council briefing in February, Ndiaye asked the international community to help CAR fulfil its technical, logistical and financial needs so that the elections could be held “within the constitutional time frame”. On 16 May, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced that registration forms, critical to the authorities for establishing a voters’ list, had arrived at Bangui airport.
Tensions have risen in the context of elections, in particular, with the return to CAR from exile of former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia on 15 December 2019 and 10 January, respectively. In early April, deputies from the CAR National Assembly put forward a bill that would have allowed President Touadéra to remain in power if elections were to be delayed because of COVID-19. (Though CAR is currently still reporting low levels of COVID-19 cases, there is fear that an outbreak would devastate the country.) Civil society organisations and the political opposition—including Bozizé, who has not ruled out running for president—denounced the assembly bill, which was later withdrawn and remains suspended.
On 9 March, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee held informal consultations during which the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts provided an overview of the panel’s 7 February 2020 progress update. The panel was to present its work plan to the committee during a meeting scheduled a week later, but the meeting did not take place because of measures taken by the Security Council to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The work plan has since been presented to the committee in written form. The committee announced on 20 April the addition of Martin Koumtamadji to its sanctions list. Koumtamadji, who is the leader of the Democratic Front of the Central African People, was listed for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the Central African Republic”. The sanctions imposed include an asset freeze and travel ban.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 7 April, the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, said in a statement that “since 28 March 2020, the political climate has deteriorated and has led to tensions detrimental to the still fragile security situation in the capital Bangui”. He called on armed groups to “put an immediate, complete and irrevocable end to all hostilities and forms of violence”, as required under the peace agreement. The statement also referred to the “potentially catastrophic consequences” of the COVID-19 pandemic and said that “the electoral system for the next presidential elections is far from being in place”. He urged the Security Council “to take urgent measures and send a strong message…because the risks of an eruption of violence are real”.
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. In light of the recent escalation of violence in Ndélé, members may consider adopting a statement urging the parties to cease their violent actions and 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
There is consensus on the Council in support of the Political Peace Agreement. However, differences regarding CAR sanctions persist. 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, while other members have argued that more progress should be made towards the complete lifting of the arms embargo. The difficult negotiations and subsequent vote on resolution 2507 renewing the CAR sanctions regime ahead of its 31 January expiry demonstrated that divergence of opinion; unlike previous unanimous renewals of the sanctions regime, China and Russia abstained on the resolution, arguing that the Council should do more to lift sanctions on the government.
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|
|31 January 2020S/RES/2507||This was a resolution renewing the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2020.|
|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.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 December 2019S/2019/930||This letter contained the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee.|
|14 February 2020S/2020/124||This was a report on MINUSCA|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|16 March 2020SC/14145||This was a press statement on attacks against MINUSCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 February 2020S/PV.8728||This was a briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2020/124) on MINUSCA.|