What's In Blue

Posted Mon 9 Mar 2015

Security Council Visiting Mission to Africa: Programme and Issues

Council members leave today for a visiting mission to Africa. The mission will take the Council to the Central African Republic (CAR), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Burundi from 10 to 13 March. France and Angola will serve as co-leads on all three legs of the mission. The US will also co-lead the Burundi leg with France and Angola.

Arriving in the CAR tomorrow afternoon, Council members will spend two days assessing the deployment and challenges facing the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), as well as assess the country’s transition process. (On 15 September 2014, the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic [MISCA] transferred its authority to MINUSCA, in accordance with resolution 2149, adopted in April 2014.) In Addis Ababa the Council will hold its annual joint session with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on 12 March. The Council will also spend a day in Burundi, a visit that comes on the heels of the closure of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) at the end of 2014 -concluding 10 years of UN peacekeeping and political missions – but also amidst tensions ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.

The Central African Republic

This will be the first visit by Council members to the CAR. Council members expect a briefing from the Special Representative and head of MINUSCA Babacar Gaye on the mission, as well as a briefing on the humanitarian situation.

It seems the programme in the CAR includes meetings with the Force Commander of MINUSCA, as well as with representatives of France’s Operation Sangaris and the EU Force in the CAR. On the political side, there are meetings scheduled with the CAR’s transitional authorities, including the transition president Catherine Samba-Panza, the prime minister, Mahamat Kamoun, the L’Agence Nationale des Elections (National Agency for Elections) and the transitional parliament. Council members are also expected to meet with religious authorities, as well as with other civil society groups. (Council members also met with CAR religious figures during an Arria-formula meeting last March in New York.) Members may also travel outside Bangui, in order to observe MINUSCA’s work and the efforts of local authorities beyond the capital.

Members will be keen to observe the security situation and assess progress in the CAR’s stabilisation. They are likely to want a better understanding of the challenges that MINUSCA faces in carrying out its mandate, which is up for renewal in April. Members will also have in mind the Secretary-General’s request to increase MINUSCA’s troop and police ceiling by 750 military personnel, 280 police and 20 corrections officers (S/2015/85). Council members may want to hear more about the need for this increase from those on the ground particularly in light of the expected reduction in the number of French forces and conversion of the EU force, whose mandate expires on 15 March, into a training mission.

According to the Terms of Reference for the CAR leg, a key priority for Council members is to stress to the transitional authorities the importance of accelerating the transition process heading toward the elections, fighting impunity, implementing a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) strategy, and rebuilding state institutions, including through security sector reform (SSR). A key message expected from Council members is the importance of meeting timelines, in particular holding presidential and legislative elections by August. (The initial February election deadline was postponed as it became unfeasible to hold the elections at that point.) The visit will provide members with an opportunity to assess preparations to meet the new schedule, which is still considered a difficult target. In traveling outside of Bangui and meeting with local authorities, Council members will be able to assess the challenges in restoring state authority and basic services.

Members will be keen on assessing the humanitarian situation. OCHA’s 18 February situation report notes that there are 443,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to nearly 430,000 refugees that have fled the country.

For France, which holds this month’s Council presidency and is the pen-holder on the CAR, the visit is an opportunity to keep the Council’s focus on the country, amidst the many other crisis situations occupying its attention. Funding needs remain a major issue. According to OCHA, only 68 percent of the $555 million required for humanitarian assistance in 2014 was received, and the 2015 appeal totals $613 million, not including the separate requirements for assisting CAR refugees and the elections. Raising donors’ awareness of these needs, as well as other urgent areas, such as the national dialogue and reconciliation, DDR and SSR processes, is another objective of the mission.

Addis Ababa
On 12 March, the Council will hold its 9th joint consultative session with the AU PSC, a practice that began in 2007 to improve cooperation between the two bodies. (The location of this meeting alternates each year between the UN’s headquarters in New York and the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.) Following the meeting, a joint communiqué will be adopted, and there will be a joint press conference.

The AU PSC proposed an agenda for the meeting in a 23 February letter to the Council, and by the end of last week, it seems agreement was reached on the programme. Following proposals from Council members to include Darfur, Somalia and South Sudan, the formal agenda covers the CAR, Darfur, Boko Haram, the Great Lakes Region, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and the High-Level UN peacekeeping operations review.

The Council’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, which is chaired by Angola, met on Friday (6 March) to discuss the agenda and the communiqué. Ambassador Téte Antonio, Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN, talked about the elements that were expected in the communiqué but a text was not circulated. At press time, negotiations on the communiqué were expected to commence early this week in New York.

Discussion on efforts to combat Boko Haram is particularly timely, as the PSC on 3 March endorsed the concept of operations (CONOPS) for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) that is being formed by the members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin to combat the group. The AU PSC requested the AU Commissioner to submit the CONOPS to the Security Council in order for the UN body to begin consideration of the PSC’s request that the Council adopt a resolution endorsing the MNJTF and providing support mechanisms for it. In its 3 March communiqué announcing this decision, the PSC noted the opportunity to further discuss this request with the Council at their joint session in Addis Ababa.

Other timely issues for the meeting include South Sudan and Mali. Regarding South Sudan, where a 5 March deadline to conclude a comprehensive agreement to form a unity government recently passed without success, the meeting may provide an opportunity to exchange views on the Council’s decision to establish targeted sanctions against spoilers in resolution 2206 on 3 March. With regard to Mali, the session could provide an opportunity for the Council and the PSC to encourage further progress in the peace talks in Algiers between the government and armed groups in the north, as there have been recent positive developments at the negotiating table.

Burundi
Council members will conclude their mission with a day-long visit to Burundi. While the Council is expected to commend Burundi for progress made since the signing of the Arusha Peace Accords in 2000, the visit also provides an opportunity to signal that despite BNUB’s closure, the Council is still watching developments in the country and to stress the importance of Burundi conducting free and credible elections later this year. There is concern over the lack of political space for the opposition, intimidation of human rights activists and press, and rising tensions ahead of elections in May and June with the prospects that President Pierre Nkurunziza will run for a third term. These concerns are captured in the Council’s recent 18 February presidential statement (S/PRST/2015/6) that recognised progress but also stressed the need for free and fair elections.

Council members are expected to raise these points during meetings with the UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi, the UN Country Team, President Nkurunziza, Foreign and Interior Ministers, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission and Burundi’s National Human Rights Commission. Council members will also meet with representatives of the country’s political parties and civil society.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails