Briefing on the Central African Republic under “Any Other Business”
Tomorrow (26 February), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous will brief Council members on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) under “any other business”. The focus of the briefing will be the Secretary-General’s request to the Council to authorise a troop increase for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) contained in his 29 January letter to the Council president (S/2015/85). At present, it seems that Council members are generally in favour of the request, pending more information on the need for the troop increase.
According to the letter, MINUSCA is currently deployed at 75 percent of its authorised 10,000 military and 1,800 police personnel, and the Secretary-General anticipates that it will reach 90 percent deployment when its current mandate expires in April. MINUSCA, along with the EU Force in the CAR and French forces in the country, has contributed to an improvement in the security situation in Bangui in recent months, the letter states. However, the surge in violence in the capital in October 2014 necessitated reinforcements in Bangui, leaving fewer troops available to deploy elsewhere. Its police components, tasked with the protection of CAR government officials, have also been overstretched. The letter also emphasises that additional capacity is needed “in time to enhance security before, during and after the electoral period,” as presidential and legislative elections are currently scheduled for July and August. In light of the above, the Secretary-General is requesting an increase of 750 military personnel, 280 police and 20 additional corrections officers for MINUSCA. The letter stresses the need for these troops ahead of the announced drawdown of the majority of the French troops by this fall. (Additionally, the mandate of the EU Force in CAR expires on 15 March and will not be renewed. Instead, the EU has decided to establish a military advisory mission to advise CAR authorities on reforming its security sector, with a large focus on the country’s armed forces). The Secretary-General notes that, if authorised soon, these additional forces can be deployed by July.
In response to the Secretary-General’s request for a troop increase, the penholder on CAR, France, circulated a concise and technical draft resolution on 4 February authorising the troop increase. It seems some countries wanted further information before beginning negotiations on the draft text. On 10 February, the US requested a briefing from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations under “any other business” in order to get more information on the current operations of MINUSCA, gaps remaining and expected costs for reinforcements. It seems the US also expressed an interest in having a clearer idea of the threat assessment for Bangui that could necessitate additional troops and whether other options were explored prior to the Secretary-General’s request. Although the request for the troop increase has apparently not been a controversial issue, several members see the merit of having a briefing that could provide more detailed information before taking a decision that has both operative and financial implications.
Meanwhile, the situation in the CAR remains dire. In late January, an unconditional truce was signed in Nairobi by representatives of the ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka. However, the Nairobi talks and the truce did not include the CAR transitional government. Both the transitional government and the members of the Economic Community of Central African States rejected the ceasefire deal. Speaking to reporters, Chad’s President Idriss Déby said the region would achieve peace through official efforts that involve CAR’s transitional government. (A previous agreement signed by the factions and the government on 23 July 2014 was essentially ignored).
The late January truce has not calmed the situation on the ground either, as fighting and violence continue. According to media reports, on 9 February, 10 people were killed and another 10 injured in an ex-Séléka attack in the northern village of Boloum. On 11 February, MINUSCA, with the assistance of French forces, carried out an attack against the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC), a faction of the Séléka, after its refusal to evacuate government buildings in the eastern town of Bria. (General Arda Hakouna of the FPRC had declared himself head of the region, kicking out local authorities and establishing a de-facto parallel administration). Reportedly, the operation resulted in the deaths of seven rebels and achieved its goal, as MINUSCA regained control of government facilities. Yet, according to a statement by the UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Karin de Gruijl on 24 February, the operation has exposed nearby villages to reprisal attacks by the ex-Séléka causing their inhabitants to flee. According to de Gruijl, since January, an estimated 30,000 people have fled their homes to other parts of the CAR and roughly 20,000 have crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Unlike outside of the capital, the security situation in Bangui seems to have improved in recent weeks. The city, however, is suffering from high rates of violent criminality. One such activity is the increase since January in kidnappings, including that of the CAR sports minister, Armel Mingatoloum Sayo, on 24 Janaury. (Sayo was released on 11 February.)
Council members will visit the CAR during a Council visiting mission to Africa in March where they will be able to get more information on the situation on the ground as well as assess MINUSCA’s future needs.