Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council is expected to extend the sanctions imposed on the Central African Republic (CAR), which expire at the end of the month, and renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, which expires on 31 August.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
On 20 June, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the CAR and head of MINUSCA Valentine Rugwabiza briefed the Council on efforts to advance the implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR, including the dissolution in April of two armed groups and factions of three other armed groups which are signatories to the peace agreement. She expressed concerns, however, about the deteriorating security situation on the country’s borders with Chad, South Sudan and Sudan and noted the influx of refugees into CAR as a result of the outbreak of conflict in neighbouring Sudan. Rugwabiza referred to the UN’s recent decision to repatriate a unit of 60 MINUSCA military personnel and their commander over serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and reiterated the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy for such matters.
AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye also briefed the Council, highlighting the impact of the outbreak of fighting in Sudan in exacerbating the difficult security situation in the CAR. He called for the complete lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the CAR to enable its armed forces (FACA) to defend the country and protect its citizens in line with a 13 June AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) communiqué following its meeting on the situation in the CAR the same day.
In a 30 May decree, President Faustin Touadéra called for a referendum on a new constitution on 30 July, which was opposed by various CAR political and civil society actors. This is due to concerns that that new constitution would remove term limits, paving the way for the president to run for a third term, which is not permitted under the current constitution. At the 20 June meeting, some Council members expressed concern about the constitutional referendum and its implications for the country’s political stability while others noted it as an achievement in the CAR’s political process.
The ongoing preparations for local elections, which were expected to take place in the CAR for the first time since 1988, have been suspended until September, according to the Secretary-General’s latest report. This was partly due to a lack of funds but also the need to prepare for the constitutional referendum in July.
A coalition of opposition parties laid out conditions for participating in local elections, including calls for the president to abandon the constitutional referendum, stop the harassment of opposition leaders, and agree to a reform of the National Electoral Authority. At the 20 June meeting, some Council members noted the temporary suspension of local elections and called on the CAR authorities to work towards an inclusive, transparent, and peaceful electoral process that guarantees the full and effective participation of all voices, including women and youth.
On 15 May, the Secretary-General submitted his report on the progress achieved by the Central African authorities in the implementation of the key benchmarks set out in a 9 April 2019 presidential statement to review the arms embargo imposed on the CAR. These benchmarks include the reform of the security sector; the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation process; and the management of weapons and ammunition. The report noted that “further efforts in support of the capacities of national authorities in demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and repatriation and in weapons and ammunition management will be paramount in reducing the availability, diversion and proliferation of weapons and ammunition fuelling violent conflict”.
The Panel of Experts’ final report (S/2023/360), published on 18 May, noted recent trends that have led the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC) forces, the main rebel coalition in CAR, to retreat towards the tri-border areas of CAR, Chad and Sudan. It described the regional security dynamics between the three countries in light of the activities of various armed groups across the tri-border areas. The report further indicated that armed groups were increasingly active in the southeast part of the CAR bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, as well as in the west near the border with Cameroon.
The report referred to the meeting hosted by the Angolan President and chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), João Lourenço, in Luanda on 9 February, which brought together CAR President Touadéra and Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno. The outcome of this meeting was a decision to move François Bozizé, the sanctioned leader of the CPC based in Chad, to Guinea-Bissau. But the panel said that no exemption request was made to do so and noted violations of the travel ban with the movement of several other sanctioned individuals between CAR, Chad and Sudan.
The report provided detailed accounts of the increasing attacks by armed groups targeting the strategic and economic interests of the FACA and the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company. Gold-mining sites have increasingly become targets of attacks, and the report referred to the 19 March incident in central CAR that claimed the lives of nine Chinese workers of the Gold Coast Group company. The panel mentioned the increase in diamond exports from CAR last year but noted the suspensions imposed by the Kimberley Process, a multilateral trade regime established in 2003 with the goal of preventing the flow of conflict diamonds that limited export volumes and their per-carat value. The suspension limits exports from production areas in the east and some parts in the west of the country, according to the panel. In this regard, the CAR government is campaigning for the lifting of the suspensions, as reflected in the remarks by Sylvie Valérie Baipo Temon, the CAR Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad, at the 21 February Security Council meeting.
On 26 April, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to discuss the panel’s final report, which was due by 30 May. Committee chair Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman (Ghana), accompanied by Council experts, undertook a working visit to CAR from 6 to 9 June.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 16 June, Yao Agbetse, the UN independent expert on the human rights situation in the CAR, issued a statement, noting that an upcoming constitutional referendum in the CAR “could complicate the country’s human rights situation” and urged authorities to prevent increased hate speech and violence before, during, and after the vote. In his statement, Agbetse urged the international community to remain vigilant about the situation in the CAR and urged the CAR authorities to use “all means possible to ensure that the referendum does not result in further human rights violations”.
Key Issues and Options
The arms embargo is likely to continue to be a key issue during the upcoming negotiations on renewing the 2127 CAR sanctions regime. The CAR government has continued to push for the lifting of the arms embargo, and the AUPSC reiterated this request in its 13 June communiqué. In the upcoming negotiations, CAR is likely to solicit the support of some Council members, including the three African members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique), China and Russia, in pushing for a total lifting. Other members may oppose this move, however, arguing that the embargo does not prevent the CAR government from acquiring weapons.
One possible option is for France, the penholder on the CAR, to propose a further easing of the notification requirement to respond to the government’s request, but this is unlikely to satisfy CAR and its supporters in the Council.
Council members are divided on the issue of the arms embargo. Although the Security Council took steps to further ease the embargo last year with the adoption of resolution 2648 of 29 July 2022, five Council members (China, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, and Russia) abstained from the vote, supporting CAR’s request to lift the embargo. The decision by the Security Council to remove the notification requirement under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime seems to have been interpreted as a precedent for other sanctions regimes. For instance, during the negotiation on extending the 2206 South Sudan sanctions regime in May, the A3 made a similar proposal to advance their position on the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan. The proposal faced opposition from other Council member states, which argued that the example of the DRC sanctions regime might not be appropriate for the South Sudan context. On 30 May, when the Council adopted resolution 2683 renewing the South Sudan sanctions regime for one year, it received ten votes in favour and abstentions from the A3, China and Russia. Resolution 2683 removed the requirement for the South Sudanese government to provide advance notification regarding the supply, sale, or transfer of non-lethal military equipment.
A similarly difficult discussion is likely to play out in the upcoming negotiation on the extension of the 2127 CAR sanctions regime. At the 20 June Security Council meeting on the situation in the CAR, Temon reiterated her country’s request to lift the arms embargo, and the A3, China and Russia supported this request in their statements. Other African countries—namely Angola, Burundi, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and South Sudan, which participated in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure—also expressed support and solidarity with the CAR. However, the US underscored the importance of the notification requirement in ensuring transparency and maintained that it does not prevent the CAR from securing the weapons it needs to confront armed groups.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 May 2023S/RES/2683||This resolution renewed the South Sudan sanctions regime for one year.|
|29 July 2022S/RES/2648||This resolution extended the CAR sanctions regime for an additional year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|9 April 2019S/PRST/2019/3||This was a presidential statement establishing benchmarks for suspending or progressively lifting arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR.|
|15 May 2023S/2023/356||was a letter from the Secretary-General on the progress in the implementation of benchmarks for a review of the arms embargo imposed on the CAR.|
|16 February 2023S/2023/108||This report was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the CAR.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|20 June 2023S/PV.9352||This was a meeting on the situation in the CAR.|