Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In February, the Security Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The Council will be briefed by Mankeur Ndiaye, the Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2022. 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
On 12 November 2021, the Security Council adopted resolution 2605, renewing MINUSCA’s mandate for another 12 months. Thirteen Council members voted in favour while China and Russia abstained. Negotiations on the text, though tense, were tempered by what appeared to be an improving situation in the country at the time. On 15 October, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra announced that his government would begin implementing a unilateral ceasefire. The announcement followed intense diplomatic efforts, including the adoption of a roadmap for the CAR by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on 16 September. The roadmap, among other things, called on all armed actors present in the CAR to commit to a ceasefire.
Since the mandate renewal, however, the security situation in the CAR has deteriorated, with frequent reports of ceasefire violations by armed opposition groups, government forces and Russian-backed forces. According to MINUSCA, on 6-7 December 2021, members of pro-government militias attacked the southern town of Boyo, targeting the town’s Muslim Fulani community and killing 15 civilians. A series of reprisals by the opposition group Unity for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) followed. On 27 December, MINUSCA peacekeepers reportedly drove out over 200 UPC members from the town. International media reported on 22 January that pro-government militias and CAR armed forces (FACA) backed by Russian forces had undertaken subsequent revenge attacks on the UPC in the area, including reports of a 16-17 January attack on the town of Bria, which resulted in at least 30 civilian deaths. At the time of writing, the CAR government denied any knowledge of the attack; MINUSCA is reportedly investigating it.
According to MINUSCA, 47 incidents of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law were committed against approximately 200 victims from mid-December 2021 to early January. As at 28 December, MINUSCA had determined that armed opposition groups had committed nearly 60 percent of the incidents, while “state agents and other security personnel” were deemed responsible for the other incidents. Three MINUSCA peacekeepers from Tanzania were wounded on 30 December, and two Bangladeshi MINUSCA peacekeepers were injured on 31 December when their vehicles hit improvised explosive devices (IEDs). On 12 January, the mission announced that there had been a significant uptick in the use of IEDs in the first two weeks of 2022.
On 13 December 2021, the EU imposed a series of sanctions on the Russian private military entity Wagner Group and several individuals connected to it, claiming that the group had “recruited, trained and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world”, including the CAR, to “fuel violence, loot natural resources and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law”. Two days later, the EU’s Training Mission in CAR (EUTM RCA) announced that it was suspending its programmes out of concern that soldiers trained by EUTM could be employed by the Wagner Group.
On 19 November 2021, the CAR government arrested Hassan Bouba Ali, CAR’s minister of livestock and a former UPC member. He was charged by the CAR’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) with war crimes stemming from a 2018 massacre of 112 civilians. Bouba Ali is understood to have acted as an intermediary between the government and the UPC. The government released him on 26 November, stirring controversy and prompting the SCC to accuse the government of creating “an obstacle to the proper functioning of justice”.
The ongoing violence has severely affected the humanitarian situation in the country. On 7 January, OCHA warned that the CAR’s humanitarian emergency is now at a level “not seen since 2015 due to the new conflict dynamics” that have developed over the past 12 months. “Recurring violence, persistent shocks and the degradation of basic services”, OCHA noted, “have significantly worsened the living conditions of Central Africans in 2021”. By OCHA’s estimate, 3.1 million Central Africans—some 63 percent of the country’s population—will need humanitarian assistance in 2022.
On 21 December 2021, the 2127 Sanctions Committee added UPC founder Ali Darassa to its sanctions list. The UPC is accused of killing, torturing and raping displaced civilians, and committing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. The UPC has also allegedly engaged in arms trafficking, illegal taxation activities and warfare against CAR defence and security forces.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement on 9 December 2021, the UN independent expert on the human rights situation in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, called on the authorities to immediately arrest Hassan Bouba Ali. “The release of Mr. Bouba Ali obstructs the fight against impunity and the ongoing national peace and reconciliation process,” the statement said. “It sends the wrong signal to the victims who are waiting for justice to be administered”. On 10 December, the G5+ (the AU, the Economic Community of Central African States, the EU, France, MINUSCA, the US, and the World Bank) released a joint statement in Bangui that deplored Bouba Ali’s release and called on all political actors to take steps against CAR’s “culture of impunity”.
Women, Peace and Security
On 16 November 2021, the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security held a meeting with Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, the Senior Women Protection Advisers from four UN peacekeeping and special political missions, including MINUSCA, and the Chief of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The Senior Women Protection Adviser from MINUSCA welcomed the robust references to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in resolution 2605, which was adopted on 12 November 2021, renewing MINUSCA’s mandate for 12 months, and provided an update on the mission’s work on CRSV in the country. The MINUSCA Senior Women Protection Adviser also said that investigation missions documented a spike in cases of CRSV between December 2020 and February 2021 in the areas affected by clashes during that period, adding that MINUSCA had recorded 451 cases of CRSV in the previous 12 months, with the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement and the 3R armed group committing the majority of these violations (29 and 27 percent respectively).
Key Issues and Options
A key issue in February will be ongoing insecurity in the CAR, resulting from the faltering ceasefire and violence against civilians by the government, its supporters and armed opposition groups. The Council could build on its 18 October 2021 “press elements” on the CAR by issuing a presidential statement that would reiterate the need for all actors to abide by the ceasefire, call on all parties to the conflict to begin implementing the ICGLR roadmap for the CAR, and encourage the government to hold accountable those responsible for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It could also underline the Council’s strong support for the work of MINUSCA.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While the Council successfully renewed MINUSCA’s mandate on 12 November 2021, both Russia and China abstained, arguing that the views of the government in Bangui had not been reflected in the resolution. Moreover, negotiations on the mandate renewal revealed several areas of contention amongst Council members, including how much the mission should prioritise the human rights situation and how to reference various armed elements operating in the CAR.
In their explanation of votes following the adoption, the US and Russia sparred over another key area of contention that has bedevilled the file over the past year, namely the role of the Russian instructors and reports of Russian mercenaries in the CAR. The US contended that Russian-supported actors have committed human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Russia maintained that such views are “unfounded, egregious accusations”.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Harold Agyeman (Ghana) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 November 2021S/RES/2605||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2022.|
|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 October 2021S/2021/867||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report.|