What's In Blue

Posted Wed 20 Mar 2013

Central African Republic Briefing

This afternoon (20 March) Council members are expecting a briefing in consultations from Margaret Vogt, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). Vogt is set to brief members on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) following threats from the Seleka coalition last week to take up arms again if the government of President François Bozizé does not fulfill promises made in the 11 January Libreville peace agreements. (The agreements included a ceasefire, statement of principles and a political pact that defines power-sharing arrangements and a period of political transition for the CAR.)

Council members paid this issue some attention in December 2012 and January 2013 following attacks by the Seleka rebels in northern CAR, issuing four press statements between 19 December 2012 and 11 January 2013. However, following the signing of the Libreville agreements on 11 January, Council members have not been as engaged in following the implementation of the agreements. The Council’s last pronouncement on this issue was in resolution 2088 renewing BINUCA’s mandate on 23 January. It expressed concern over the lack of state authority outside Bangui, highlighting the responsibility of the government in maintaining law and order as well as ensuring the protection of the civilian population, including foreign nationals.

Now with the nine week old peace agreements in jeopardy it seems France this morning circulated a draft press statement which may be issued following the briefing if there is agreement among Council members. It is likely that the draft press statement will call on President Bozizé and the leaders of the Seleka coalition to cease hostilities and to implement the Libreville agreements. The statement may also touch on the need for the mediation committee called for in the Libreville agreements to be convened. Humanitarian and human rights concerns could also be highlighted in the press statement.

Council members are likely to be looking for clarification on what is happening on the ground in the CAR. Press reports indicate that rebels took over two towns in the southeast of the country, one of which was a critical refueling stop for humanitarian workers. There are also media reports that on Sunday (17 March) the Seleka rebels detained five government ministers who came from their ranks, demanding the release of political prisoners and the departure of about 400 South African troops who were sent in to help the government of President Bozizé in return for their release. It seems that the rebels have threatened to break the ceasefire if these demands are not met today.

Vogt last week warned that without a strong response from the international community the CAR has no future. She is likely to bring a similar message to Council members as well as stress the importance of ensuring humanitarian access. UNHCR has also warned that the renewed fighting in the CAR is threatening the civilian population in the southeast of the country and making access difficult.

Council members may also want more information on what BINUCA is doing to help mediators get the parties back to the table. (BINUCA’s mandate includes helping to consolidate peace in the CAR, including support for security reform and reintegration of ex-combatants.) The Libreville agreements included an agreement to start peace talks under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Council members are also expecting a report from the Secretary-General assessing the implementation of BINUCA’s priorities by 31 March. A discussion on this report is likely in early April and may provide an opportunity for Council members to consider the possibility of adjusting BINUCA’s mandate to better reflect the changing circumstances in CAR.

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