Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expected to renew the sanctions measures imposed on the Central African Republic (CAR) pursuant to resolution 2127, which expires at the end of the month. The mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, which expires on 31 August, is also expected to be renewed in July.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) expires on 15 November 2021.
Key Recent Developments
On 23 June, the Security Council met to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on MINUSCA. Mankeur Ndiaye, the Special Representative for the CAR and head of MINUSCA, and Bankole Adeoye, the AU’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security briefed the Council. They were joined by Angolan President and Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço; the European External Action Service (EEAS) Managing Director for Africa, Rita Laranjinha; and a representative of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Speaking to the Council on recent developments in CAR, Ndiaye highlighted the fragile security situation and the worsening human rights conditions in the country. According to the Secretary-General’s 16 June report, there has been an “unacceptable and unprecedented increase in hostile threats and incidents by the national security force and bilaterally deployed other security personnel targeting MINUSCA” as well as disinformation campaigns that “seek to incite hatred and violence”, including against international organisations.
The 23 June meeting followed the Council’s 7 June discussion on the CAR under “any other business” at the request of France, the penholder, and the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). That meeting was requested against the backdrop of what the Secretary-General called in his 16 June report a “surge in the number and gravity” of violations of the status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) between the UN and the CAR government. During the meeting, Ndiaye outlined a series of violations such as threats against UN personnel and hindering the freedom of movement of MINUSCA patrols and UN personnel. These violations included a 30 May incident during which a delegation led by MINUSCA’s Deputy Special Representative was prevented from accessing an area near the CAR border with Chad and Cameroon, where people displaced by fighting were staying and where 20 civilians were reportedly arrested and tortured by the Central African armed forces (FACA) two days earlier. Apparently, Ndiaye’s briefing suggested that the SOFA violations have been committed by both the FACA and external military forces supporting the FACA. Some Council members apparently alleged that Russian military instructors were involved in the SOFA violations. Russia maintains that its instructors have been invited by the CAR government to work with the CAR armed forces and denied their involvement in any violations.
The accusations echoed a statement made by the US during the Council’s separate discussion on 7 June about the activities of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), during which it expressed “outrage” at reports that “Russian instructors led military offensives characterized by confrontations with UN peacekeepers, threats against UN personnel, violations of international humanitarian law, extensive sexual violence and widespread looting, including of humanitarian organizations”. Russia denied those charges, saying that the US “continues to make the same unfounded accusations” in an effort to “give Russia a bad name and, in particular, to undermine [its] effective efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation”.
Despite the acrimony, the Council agreed on press elements on 7 June, noting “the importance of ensuring the full and effective implementation of, and compliance with, the status of forces agreement” and that “attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute war crimes”. The issue of the SOFA violations was also raised with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra during a 2-6 June visit to the CAR by Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and senior officials from the AU, the EU and ECCAS.
As highlighted at the 23 June Council session, the overall situation in the CAR remains tenuous. Reports suggest that the operational capabilities of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC)—a coalition of armed groups that perpetrated the country’s elections-related violence in late 2020 and early 2021—has been weakened, but it continues to create instability in several regions of the CAR. One high-profile security incident occurred on 30 May on the border between the CAR and Chad, where Chadian troops clashed with FACA and Russian military instructors. According to international media reports, six Chadian soldiers and three Russian military instructors were killed in the incident. An independent international commission, which includes members from the UN, the AU and ECCAS, was established on 1 June to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis continues unabated. Nearly 2.8 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection, and an 11 June OCHA report stated the country’s health system “is barely functioning”. It further noted that only one-third of Central Africans have access to clean water. These difficulties have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as persistent violence, which has created approximately 729,000 internally displaced persons and driven an additional 695,000 people to flee the country.
Finally, the CAR’s political environment remains tense despite President Touadéra’s inauguration. The 2-6 June joint high-level visit to the CAR attempted to reinvigorate the country’s peace process, which remains stalled despite Touadéra’s stated commitment to it. On 8 June, citing an apparent disinformation campaign against French officials by the CAR government, the French government announced that it was suspending military cooperation and its support to the CAR government’s budget.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 47th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to receive an oral update on 9 July from the independent expert on the human rights situation in the CAR, Yao Agbetse.
Key Issues and Options
Possible amendments to the arms embargo, including its further easing, and the length of the sanctions regime renewal and that of the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, will be the key issues for the Council in July. Council members may want to take account of the Secretary-General’s report on the benchmarks of the arms embargo to assess progress. The Council may also wish to consider the rising number of SOFA violations against MINUSCA, especially given that many of these violations have been committed by elements of the FACA.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The arms embargo remains a highly contentious issue. China and Russia have argued that the Council should ease the arms embargo, with the aim of lifting it completely. During a Council meeting on the CAR on 21 January, CAR’s foreign minister called for the “total lifting” of the arms embargo to allow the “democratically elected authorities to ensure the protection of the population and to defend [the country’s] territorial integrity”. This position was supported by China and Russia, with China arguing that lifting the arms embargo “at an early date” would help improve the country’s security capacities. During the 23 June Council briefing, the ICGLR and ECCAS briefers also reiterated their support for lifting the arms embargo. Other Council members, including the P3, believe that the government is able to procure adequate arms given numerous exemptions in the arms embargo. Further, they argue that the CAR government has made only limited progress on achieving the benchmarks for progressively lifting or suspending the arms embargo, outlined in a presidential statement in April 2019. Moreover, they contend that lifting the embargo would allow arms to flow to various armed groups, creating further instability.
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|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2566||This resolution raised the MINUSCA troop ceiling.|
|12 November 2020S/RES/2552||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2021.|
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|9 April 2019 S/PRST/2019/3||This established benchmarks for suspending or progressively lifting arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR.|
|16 June 2021S/2021/571||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report.|