Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
Addressing the nation in a 15 October television broadcast, Central African Republic (CAR) President Faustin-Archange Touadéra announced that his government would begin implementing a unilateral ceasefire and cessation of all military operations against armed groups across the country effective 16 October.
The announcement came after a flurry of diplomatic activities aimed at ending the ongoing violence in the country. On 16 September, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) adopted a “Joint Road Map for Peace for the CAR”, which, amongst other key elements, called for the CAR government to declare a ceasefire in its security forces’ operations to combat armed groups in the country. From 5 to 7 October, Special Representative for the CAR and head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye, who was joined by Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) François Louncény Fall, visited Luanda, Angola, where they met with Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who is also currently chairperson of the ICGLR. During the meeting, they discussed the overall situation in the CAR and the wider region. On 8 October, Ndiaye and Fall met with Touadéra in Bangui to discuss regional initiatives, including the ICGLR’s, to bring about the ceasefire and advance the peace process.
On 16 October, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all parties in the CAR to immediately respect the ceasefire and to take the necessary steps to revitalise efforts to make progress on the 2019 peace agreement. On 18 October, after the Council’s regularly scheduled briefing on the situation in the CAR, Council members issued press elements welcoming the ceasefire announcement.
That announcement comes against a backdrop of persistent violence in the country. In his recent quarterly report on MINUSCA (published on 12 October), the Secretary-General said that the security situation remains precarious as the Central African armed forces (FACA) and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”—which some Council members allege includes Russian military instructors and mercenaries—had engaged in a military offensive before the ceasefire announcement against armed groups that harmed civilians and caused widespread displacement in central and western CAR. At the time of writing, it was not possible to assess whether the ceasefire was holding throughout the country or whether FACA and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” had ended their military operations in accordance with the announcement.
The CAR’s human rights situation also remains dire as a result of the violence. Since 1 June, MINUSCA has documented 409 alleged and confirmed incidents of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, affecting 938 victims and causing 228 civilian deaths. According to the Secretary-General’s report, fighting between the FACA and “bilaterally deployed forces” on the one hand and armed groups on the other has also resulted in 176 civilian deaths, more than double the 82 civilian deaths reported during the previous four-month reporting period. On 1 October, a CAR government-established special investigation commission on human rights violations submitted its findings to the CAR government. Media reports indicated that the inquiry, which covered human rights abuses from December 2020 to April 2021, determined that both the FACA and Russian military instructors had been responsible for 104 human rights violations, including the killing of civilians. Council members’ 18 October press elements also broadly touched on the human rights situation, encouraging the government to hold accountable those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
According to data from OCHA’s most recent situation report, dated 12 October, CAR’s humanitarian situation has also worsened in recent months. The report notes that the number of people who are considered food insecure continues to rise, with over 2.6 million people—approximately 57 percent of the population—affected. In addition, 691,000 people were internally displaced as at 31 July. There have also been some 344 incidents affecting humanitarian workers between January and September 2021 (compared to 267 such incidents during the same period in 2020). Just over two-thirds of the incidents included theft, robbery, looting, and threats and assaults against humanitarians.
Finally, on 14 September, the government announced that a new electoral calendar had been adopted for municipal, regional and senatorial elections. Local elections, the first since 1988, are now scheduled to take place on 11 September 2022. According to the Secretary-General’s recent report, voter registration will take place from 2 January to 30 April 2022.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 48th session, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 48/19 on 11 October without a vote, extending the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR for one year (A/HRC/48/L.1). It requested the independent expert to pay particular attention to alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. It also decided to convene a high-level dialogue at its 49th session to assess human rights developments on the ground, with particular emphasis on the reconciliation process and the establishment of guarantees of non-repetition.
Key Issues and Options
The primary issue for the Council in November will be the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate. The Council may underscore the importance of the mission’s role in assisting the government to prepare for and conduct local elections and in working with the parties to promote the implementation of the peace agreement. During the 18 October Council meeting on the CAR, Special Representative Ndiaye maintained that conducting local elections without delay could help to sustain momentum in the peace process. In the same meeting, CAR President Touadéra expressed support for the mission, calling on the Council to unanimously renew the mandate, as it did in 2020.
The announcement of a unilateral ceasefire and its potential positive impact on the implementation of the 2019 political agreement is another key issue for Council members. In renewing MINUSCA’s mandate, and building on the press elements adopted on 18 October, the Council may wish to express its support for the ceasefire declaration and call on the government and the opposition to take advantage of the cessation in violence to reinvigorate the peace process.
Council and Wider Dynamics
There is consensus amongst Council members that the unilateral ceasefire is a welcome step and that the country must now build on this momentum to make progress on the political process.
However, differences among Council members on the situation in the country have emerged in recent months, creating tension between some Council members. Key amongst these is the role of the Russian instructors and reports of Russian mercenaries in the CAR.
Though it does not relate specifically to the renewal of the MINUSCA mandate, Council members also continue to express widely divergent views on the need for an arms embargo on the government. Touadéra used his Council statement in October to request the Council to reassess the “burden” that the arms embargo placed on the CAR’s security forces.
Council members will need to overcome these rifts to successfully negotiate the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate. Touadéra’s request that the Council unanimously renew the mandate may help improve the Council’s dynamics on the CAR, thereby potentially relieving some existing tensions prior to upcoming negotiations.
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.|
|12 October 2021S/2021/867||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report.|