Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In October, the Security 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 11 October. Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA, an EU representative, and the AU Special Representative and head of the AU Office in the CAR are expected to brief.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November. The CAR sanctions regime expires on 31 July 2022, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August 2022.
Key Recent Developments
The situation in the CAR has remained volatile since Ndiaye last briefed the Council on 23 June. During that meeting, Ndiaye echoed the Secretary-General’s 16 June report, which raised serious concerns about ongoing military counter-offensives carried out by the “national security forces [FACA] and bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”. He noted that the counter-offensives against the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), an alliance of armed opposition groups responsible for significant violence in the CAR, had contributed to a high level of human rights violations in the country. (Some Council members allege that the “bilaterally deployed forces” are Russian military instructors and mercenaries. Russia maintains that the CAR government has invited its instructors to work with the CAR armed forces and denies that they have been involved in any violations.)
On 27 July, a series of attacks by the Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC), an armed opposition group, against both FACA and MINUSCA installations, caused injury to one peacekeeper. According to MINUSCA, on the same day, FACA members and “bilaterally deployed forces” clashed with an unidentified armed group near CAR’s north-west border, resulting in widescale displacement. According to a 15 September OCHA report, thousands of civilians were forced to flee the fighting. Four days later, fighting between the 3R (Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation) armed group and the FACA erupted after an attack on a FACA base in the north-west village of Mann. Carrying out its protection of civilians mandate, MINUSCA deployed both a rapid intervention force and an aerial reconnaissance mission. Seven people were killed in the fighting.
The ongoing insecurity has also had a major impact on the country’s humanitarian situation. According to OCHA’s reporting, there were approximately 713,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country as at 31 August. While there had been a drop in IDP numbers since early spring, 37,510 newly displaced people were recorded throughout August, due primarily to fighting in the north-west. Overall, the number of Central Africans in need of humanitarian assistance has risen in the past year. At this time last year, 2.36 million people in the CAR were considered food insecure; that number has now grown to over 2.6 million people—some 57 percent of the country’s population.
On 15 September, MINUSCA announced the UN Secretariat’s decision to repatriate immediately all Gabonese military units from MINUSCA. The decision, which was based on credible reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by the Gabonese contingent, will affect 450 Gabonese troops. In making the announcement, MINUSCA highlighted the organisation’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and said that MINUSCA’s partners had provided assistance to the victims. Speaking to the media on 17 September, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson announced that the decision and “swift action” had come as the result not only of recent allegations of sexual abuse but also “on top of much older allegations which have not been resolved”. The Gabonese defence ministry has also opened an investigation.
MINUSCA has been the subject of previous allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, notably during 2015 and 2016. In December 2015, an independent panel appointed by the Secretary-General to review how the UN had handled reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeeping forces in the CAR released a report that highlighted systemic failures in UN reporting chains and inadequate responses by several UN officials, including by then-head of MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye, who subsequently resigned at the request of the Secretary-General.
Increasingly strong language on sexual exploitation and abuse has been inserted into subsequent MINUSCA mandate renewals. Resolution 2552, which renewed MINUSCA’s mandate until 12 November, emphasised the need to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to improve the way these allegations are addressed. Resolution 2552 also urges troop- and police-contributing countries to “take appropriate steps to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 4 August, a joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and MINUSCA provided details of the dire and worsening human rights situation over the past year in the CAR. The report, which covers July 2020 to June, documents 526 incidents of abuses and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law across the country, affecting at least 1,221 victims. Among the documented abuses and violations are extrajudicial and summary killings; torture and ill-treatment; arbitrary arrests and detentions; unnecessary and disproportionate use of force; conflict-related sexual violence; and serious violations against children, including their recruitment by parties to the conflict.
During its 48th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 7 October with the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, and consider his report (A/HRC/48/81).
Key Issues and Options
The most pressing issue for the Council will be the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate, which expires on 15 November. As such, Council members will be following closely Ndiaye’s briefing to assess if there are areas in the mandate that need further strengthening. One possible such area is in connection with sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. In addition to taking this into consideration during upcoming mandate renewal negotiations, Council members may wish to adopt a presidential statement in October, echoing relevant language on sexual exploitation and abuse from previous MINUSCA mandates as well as resolution 2272, which was adopted on 11 March 2016 and addressed sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations.
The ongoing violence and slow progress on the implementation of the CAR’s 2019 political agreement is another key issue for Council members. To help support national reconciliation and reinvigorate the CAR’s stagnant dialogue process, Council members may wish to express their support for the 16 September call for a ceasefire in the CAR by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Council and Wider Dynamics
There has been strong overall support amongst Council members for the work of MINUSCA. However, there are growing differences among some Council members on the situation in the country. Key amongst these issues is the role of the Russian instructors and reports of Russian mercenaries in the CAR. Given allegations of Russian actors’ participation in recent fighting and human rights violations, Council sessions have grown increasingly tense, with some members, including the UK and the US, strongly questioning Russia’s involvement in the country.
There appears to be wide support for the need to address sexual exploitation and abuse in all peace operations, including through the repatriation of peacekeepers when there is credible evidence of patterns of sexual exploitation and abuse. Resolution 2272 was adopted with 14 votes in favour, and one abstention (by then-elected member Egypt). Gabon is set to join the Council as an elected member on 1 January 2022.
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|
|29 July 2021S/RES/2588||This resolution extended the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2022, 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 2022.|
|12 November 2020S/RES/2552||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2021.|
|11 March 2016 S/RES/2272||This resolution addressed sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations.|
|16 June 2021S/2021/571||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report.|