Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on 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 assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August 2023.
Key Recent Developments
On 21 February, Rugwabiza briefed the Council on efforts to advance the implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR and the dissolution of four signatory armed groups in December 2022. She also described the ongoing preparations for the local elections that will be held for the first time since 1988, and the related challenges, including funding shortfalls and security constraints. Rugwabiza noted the increasing military activities of armed groups with the onset of the dry season (which gives forces greater mobility) and growing tensions along CAR’s borders. She reported the lifting of the government’s ban on MINUSCA’s night flights, which was a contentious issue during the mission’s mandate renewal in November 2022. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 20 February.) Rugwabiza noted the lack of any meaningful improvement in the human rights situation in the country and expressed serious concerns about the increasing incidence of conflict-related sexual violence.
Pursuant to resolution 2659 of 14 November 2022, which renewed the mandate of MINUSCA, the mission is to provide assistance to the CAR authorities in organising local elections. According to the Secretary-General’s 16 February report, the first round of local elections is set to take place on 16 July and the second round on 15 October. MINUSCA signed an Integrated Electoral Security Plan with the CAR government on 14 February to facilitate the requisite security measures, but the budget shortfall that the CAR government is facing in organising local elections remains a challenge. It seems that partners have been reluctant to provide funding because of concerns that the money might be used to organise a constitutional referendum, which has been a contentious issue in CAR.
The CAR government established a committee in August 2022 to draft a new constitution that would remove presidential term limits. The current constitution, adopted in 2016 following popular consultations, does not allow the president to run for a third term. After the government’s decision was invalidated by the CAR Constitutional Court in September 2022, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra removed the president of the Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan, in October 2022. In her 21 February briefing, Rugwabiza informed the Council of the assurances given by the CAR prime minister “that local elections will not be combined with any eventual referendum on the Constitution”.
The growing insecurity in the CAR because of the resumption of military activities by some armed groups has been a major concern. Rugwabiza said that the mission had “witnessed new developments in the modus operandi of armed groups, namely, the use of explosive devices and drones, negatively impacting the population, national security forces, humanitarian actors and United Nations peacekeepers”. She described the mission’s efforts to maintain its mobility and effectiveness in responding to these evolving threats and in protecting civilians. Armed groups operating across the border with neighbouring countries, particularly in the resource-rich areas in the northwest and northeast, have been a particular concern in recent months.
In early January, Sudan announced that it was closing its borders with CAR, reportedly because of concerns over unnamed actors operating on the Sudanese side of the border to plot regime change in the CAR. The regional dimension of the country’s security situation has now been amplified by the ongoing fighting in Sudan and the influx of refugees and returnees to the CAR. According to OCHA, 9,725 people have crossed the border into CAR because of the fighting, and this number is expected to rise. The northeast part of CAR depends on Sudan for supplies, but traffic along the border is now reportedly disrupted due to insecurity.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk issued a statement on 31 March during the high-level dialogue on the CAR. Emphasising his grave concerns that the “relentless cycle of communal, religious and ethnic violence…will escalate…with major setbacks for peace and reconciliation efforts”, Türk underscored that it was the civilian population, first and foremost, that bear the brunt of abuses. The Human Rights Division of MINUSCA documented an increase in human rights and humanitarian law abuses and violations from 564 in the first quarter of 2022 to 1,300 in the last quarter. Türk noted that government forces and their allies committed 58 percent of violations, explicitly targeting the Fulani and Muslim communities.
On 30 March, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee held a briefing for regional states and other interested member states on the midterm report of the Panel of Experts assisting the work of the committee, which was released on 10 February. On 26 April, the committee held informal consultations to discuss the panel’s final report, which was due by 30 May.
The committee chair was expected to undertake a visiting mission to the CAR in April, but the visit was apparently postponed at the request of CAR authorities. The visit is now expected to take place from 6 to 9 June.
The chair of the PBC Central African Republic country configuration, Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco), briefed the Council at its 21 February meeting on the CAR. Hilale called on donors to mobilise funds to fill the nearly $7 million budget gap for the upcoming local elections. He highlighted the CAR Special Criminal Court and the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission as essential mechanisms for promoting reconciliation and combatting impunity, which contribute to conflict prevention and long-term sustainable peace. Hilale also encouraged continuing dialogue between the government and the international financial institutions to support investments in socio-economic recovery and development, which are critical for implementing the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation.
Key Issues and Options
The political and security situation in the CAR continues to be a key issue for Council members in June. Council members could be interested to learn about the regional implications of the conflict in Sudan and its likely impact on the security and humanitarian situation in the CAR.
A possible option is for the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee to organise a joint meeting with the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee and the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and invite the head of the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and representatives of regional and sub-regional organisations to brief Council members on the regional implications of the conflict in Sudan, including the security and humanitarian impact on the CAR.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members welcome the dissolution of four signatory armed groups but remain concerned by the increasing military activities of other non-signatory armed groups, including along the borders of CAR. In this regard, they welcomed the February meeting between Touadéra and Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Déby in Luanda under the auspices of Angolan President João Lourenço, who is the current chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). Following this meeting, former CAR president François Bozizé, who leads a rebel coalition known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) based in Chad, reportedly left N’Djamena for Guinea-Bissau.
Some Council members continue to raise serious concerns about human rights abuses committed by armed groups, the CAR armed forces (FACA), and the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company. Russia has argued that this is a campaign to discredit the group and that the accusations are not supported by verified facts.
In March, China lost nine of its citizens in an attack on a gold mining site near Bambari, the second largest city in CAR. Amid much speculation about the perpetrators of the attack, the CAR authorities accused the CPC, but the rebel coalition denied the accusation, blaming the Wagner Group.
It seems that the US has been seeking to engage with the CAR government but considers its partnership with the Wagner Group an obstacle to improving relations. It has been encouraging the government to strengthen ties with MINUSCA and “other responsible partners” as an alternative to its relations with the Wagner Group, as the US representative said at the 8 December 2022 briefing on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).
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.|
|16 February 2023S/2023/108||This report was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the CAR.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|21 February 2023S/PV.9265||This meeting record was on the situation in the CAR.|