Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which is due by 9 October. 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 2021 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August 2021.
Key Recent Developments
On 28 July, the Security Council convened an in-person meeting in the ECOSOC chamber and adopted resolution 2536, which renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2021 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2021. In contrast to the renewal of the sanctions regime in January, which saw Russia and China abstain, resolution 2536 was adopted unanimously.
The adoption of resolution 2536 and October’s meeting come in the context of a wave of violent clashes since April in CAR’s north-east and north-west. According to the Panel of Experts’ 8 July report, “despite their nominal commitment to implement the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the [CAR]…, armed groups continue to impede the restoration of State authority and engaged in many violations of the Agreement”. In response to the violence, MINUSCA has undertaken a series of ongoing operations in recent months, including one launched on 17 May in the town of Ndélé in the north of the country, to help stabilise the situation, and another, launched in coordination with the Central African armed forces (FACA) on 17 June, to end violence against civilians in north-west CAR committed by the 3R (Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation) armed group.
Political tensions have also increased because of the presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for later this year and early 2021, and there are concerns that electoral dynamics might undermine the implementation of the peace agreement. Late last year and in early 2020, CAR analysts noted that the return of former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia to the CAR could have a destabilising effect on the already fragile political climate in the country. The 25 July announcement by Bozizé that he would run in the upcoming presidential elections may exacerbate tensions; Bozizé was listed under Security Council sanctions in 2014 for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of CAR”. On 19 September, authorities in France arrested the former head of the presidential guard under Bozizé, Eric Bagale, for committing “acts of torture” and “preparing for war crimes” during Bozizé’s presidency. In addition, on 5 September, Djotodia announced in Bangui that he had “definitively” returned to CAR; after his initial return to CAR in January, he subsequently travelled outside the country. Though he has not announced that he would compete in the upcoming elections, he said on 5 September that “nothing prevents” him from being a presidential candidate.
Finally, according to OCHA, CAR’s humanitarian situation remains “worrisome” and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the country’s socioeconomic situation. Approximately 2.6 million people require humanitarian assistance in CAR and 2.36 million people are considered food–insecure. While the overall number of those infected with the coronavirus remains relatively low (as of 9 September, there were officially 4,738 cases), CAR suffers from limited testing capacity, potentially masking the actual figures. According to the World Health Organization, CAR is “one of the least prepared countries to face the COVID-19 outbreak”. Seventy percent of CAR’s health services are provided by humanitarian organisations. An estimated 659,000 internally displaced persons are considered at high risk of contracting COVID-19, given the overcrowded conditions many are living in.
On 5 August, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee approved the addition of Bi Sidi Souleman, president of the 3R group, to its sanctions list. According to the listing, the 3R has killed, tortured, raped and displaced civilians and “engaged in arms trafficking, illegal taxation activities, and warfare with other militias since its creation in 2015”. Souleman is alleged to have personally participated in some of these acts.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 45th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) was scheduled to consider in an interactive dialogue on 2 October the written report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse (A/HRC/45/55). In a 27 August statement, Agbetse called on all sides to ensure that upcoming elections can proceed smoothly and for the support of the international community. “For the elections to be peaceful, they must be preceded by a ceasefire and cooperation among all sides”, Agbetse said, emphasising that after years of instability, it is essential for Central Africans to “strengthen the foundations for a return to peace, reconciliation, and respect for human rights”. Agbetse provided a set of recommendations in his statement, calling in particular for armed groups to lay down arms in line with their commitment to do so under the 2019 Peace Agreement and to respect the results of the election. He also stressed the need for the “reactivation of the existing inclusive dialogue space…in which the government, the opposition and civil society organizations can agree on essential issues”. Agbetse expressed gratitude to MINUSCA, the UN country team and other international partners for their services and support, particularly considering the constraints due to COVID-19.
Key Issues and Options
Monitoring the implementation of the CAR peace agreement and ensuring that credible and transparent elections are held remain key priorities for the Council. Monitoring the process leading up to the elections will also be a priority. In light of recent violence and given concern around the return of both Bozizé and Djotodia, members may consider adopting a statement urging continued calm and a cessation of all violence and calling for full implementation of the peace agreement. Such a product would 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 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and around the need for peaceful elections later this year. Despite evident differences regarding the CAR sanctions regime during negotiations in January, the unanimous adoption of resolution 2536 in July and the largely uncontentious negotiations leading to its adoption suggest that the Council may have found a more unified way to approach the CAR.
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|
|28 July 2020S/RES/2536||This resolution extended the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2021, including an arms embargo with some exemptions, and renewed the mandate of the CAR Panel of Experts, who assist the Sanctions Committee to oversee the sanction measures, until 31 August 2021.|
|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|
|24 June 2020S/2020/572||This was from the president of the Security Council addressed to the Secretary-General and the permanent representatives of Council member states containing the record of the 22 June open VTC meeting on MINUSCA.|
|16 June 2020S/2020/545||This was a report on MINUSCA.|