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). Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA Valentine Rugwabiza is expected to brief.
The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2023. The CAR sanctions regime expires on 31 July 2023, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August 2023.
Key Recent Developments
On 14 November 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2659, renewing MINUSCA’s mandate for another year until 15 November. Twelve members voted in favour of the resolution, and China, Gabon, and Russia abstained. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 13 November 2022.)
Following the adoption of resolution 2659, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix visited the CAR in December 2022 to engage with the government and other stakeholders on the implementation of MINUSCA’s mandate. According to the mission, the discussion focused on how to enhance the state’s capacity, strengthen state institutions and the rule of law, and support the holding of local elections. Concerns about misinformation and hate speech were also raised in the discussion. Lacroix called for calm, open, and peaceful debates ahead of the local elections, which are expected to take place this year.
The issue of constitutional reform has been contentious in CAR. In October 2022, CAR President Faustin Archange Touadéra removed the president of the CAR Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan, and appointed Jean-Pierre Waboé as the new president. This followed a 23 September 2022 decision by the court to invalidate the government’s decision to set up a committee to draft a new constitution to remove presidential term limits. The current constitution, adopted in 2016 following popular consultations, does not allow the president to run for a third term, and the CAR court declared the committee’s work unconstitutional. Opposition parties and civil society organisations strongly criticised the government’s decision to remove Darlan and underscored the need to respect the independence of the judiciary. During his visit, Lacroix emphasised the need to respect institutions and allow political parties and civil society to express themselves freely.
On 27 December 2022, the CAR national assembly extended for five years the mandate of the Special Criminal Court (SCC)—a hybrid court set up in 2015 with the support of the UN to investigate, prosecute and try serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the CAR. The court started its deliberations in August 2022 after having completed hearings for its first trial and issuing a life sentence and two 20-year prison terms for three members of the 3R rebel group who were accused of taking part in a massacre in May 2019 that claimed the lives of 46 people. In a 1 November 2022 statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that these sentences were “a milestone in the Central African Republic’s efforts to bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes, which is crucial for fighting impunity, breaking cycles of violence, and contributing to transitional justice”.
The growing insecurity in the CAR due to the resumption of military activities by some armed groups has been a major concern. MINUSCA reported that it has enhanced its joint patrols with the CAR armed forces (FACA) to respond to armed groups’ threats and enhance civilians’ protection. Armed groups operating cross-border have been a particular concern stoking tensions between CAR and its neighbours. The CAR authorities blamed an unnamed neighbouring country for an alleged bombing of Bossangoa, a town near the Chadian border, in November 2022, which reportedly targeted a military base used by FACA and the Wagner group, a Russian private security company. The town was said to be under the control of armed groups until recently. In early January, Sudan announced that it was closing its borders with CAR, reportedly because of concerns over unnamed actors who were operating on the Sudanese side of the border to plan regime change in the CAR.
One of the challenges faced by MINUSCA has been continued violations of the status of forces agreement (SOFA), as acknowledged in Resolution 2659 renewing MINUSCA’s mandate in November 2022, which “urges all parties in the CAR to cooperate fully with the deployment and activities of MINUSCA, in particular by ensuring its safety, security, and freedom of movement with unhindered and immediate access throughout the territory of the CAR, including by air and at night, as per MINUSCA’s Status of Forces Agreement, to enable MINUSCA to carry out fully its mandate in a complex environment”. On 10 January, two French consultants working for MINUSCA were arrested at the Bangui International Airport. They were released after two days without charges.
Following the renewal of the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the work of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee on 29 July 2022, the Secretary-General appointed four panel members on 31 August 2022. They are from Tunisia, Congo, Netherlands, and Norway with expertise in arms, armed groups, finance/natural resources, and humanitarian affairs. On 28 December 2022, the Secretary-General appointed the Panel’s fifth and final member, from Pakistan, to serve as a regional expert.
Since July 2022, the 2127 Sanctions Committee has met four times to discuss the work plan and progress update of the Panel of Experts and to engage with regional states on the challenges in monitoring and implementation of sanctions measures.
Key Issues and Options
The political and security situation in the CAR will be a key issue for Council members in February. They could be keen to know more about the ongoing preparations for the holding of local elections, which are expected this year for the first time since 1988. Some members may express serious concerns about the removal of the president of the CAR Constitutional Court and call on the government to respect the independence of the judiciary. The growing insecurity in the country could also be another area of concern on which Council members may reiterate their support for MINUSCA’s robust mandate in protecting civilians.
The other major issue for Council members is the need to ensure accountability and justice for crimes committed in the CAR. They may, therefore, welcome the extension of the mandate of the SCC and express continued support for its work. A possible option is to hold an informal interactive dialogue with the SCC president on the progress and challenges in fighting impunity in the CAR.
The continued violation of the SOFA remains another important issue. Council members may continue to insist on the need for the host country to respect its obligation under the SOFA to enable MINUSCA to effectively discharge its mandate.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council dynamics on the CAR continue to be difficult. This was particularly evident during MINUSCA’s mandate renewal in November 2022. The three African members (Gabon, Ghana, and then-Council member Kenya), as well as China and Russia, supported the host country’s position on several issues, including its request to make “promoting the extension of state authority” a priority task of the mission and the differentiated treatment of the government and armed groups in the draft resolution (opposing the use of the phrase “parties to the conflict” in the draft text, which they argued, equates a legitimately elected government with armed groups). Although the penholder tried to accommodate those requests to a certain extent, these members were not satisfied, which resulted in abstentions by China, Gabon, and Russia.
Other members were disappointed that previously agreed language concerning the responsibility to protect was removed from the draft text, and that the resolution did not specifically call out the Wagner group for its alleged violations of human rights in the CAR.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|Security Council Resolution|
|14 November 2022S/RES/2659||This resolution renewed MINUSCA’s mandate for one year until 15 November 2023.|
|13 October 2022S/2022/762||This was a Secretary-Generals report on the situation in the Central African Republic|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|14 November 2022S/PV.9190||This was a meeting on the situation in the CAR.|