Central African Republic Sanctions Committee Activities
There have been several developments in the 2127 Central African Republic (CAR) Sanctions Committee recently. These include the Chair’s visit to the CAR, the Committee meeting with the countries of the region, discussion of the Panel of Experts’ (PoE) midterm report and new additions to the sanctions list.
Visit by the Committee Chair
The Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaité (Lithuania), began a five-day visit to the CAR on 24 August. During the visit Murmokaitė is expected to follow up on the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) agreement, signed by the armed groups during the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation in May. The agreement called for all combatants to give up their weapons by the time of the presidential and legislative elections, now scheduled for 18 October.
Murmokaité is scheduled to meet with Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and Interim Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun, civil society representatives (focusing on groups representing women’s and children’s rights) and other officials. Taking into account the relevant issues before the Committee, Murmokaité will also visit mines and weapons storage facilities to get a first-hand impression of the link between natural resources and the conflict in the country, and the ability of the CAR to manage, stock and track weapons in its territory.
Committee Discussion with Regional Countries
Last Friday (21 August), the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee met to discuss the 29 July midterm report of the PoE. Prior to discussion of the report, the Committee met with the representatives of the CAR and neighboring countries regarding issues related to the arms embargo imposed on the CAR. In the presence of representatives of Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan, the CAR representative raised the issue of weapons and military equipment confiscated by these countries from military personnel fleeing from the CAR during the civil war. (A country returning these weapons without the approval of the Committee under the exemptions procedure laid out in resolution 2196 would be in violation of the arms embargo.) The CAR representative requested that the Committee guidelines be amended so that the CAR would be able to request the Committee for exemptions from the arms embargo as the receiving country of such arms, instead of waiting for the sending country to file a request to send the weapons back to the CAR.
Apparently, the Committee – as well as the PoE – had only received partial information about these weapons, which mostly pertained to those located in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, but not in the other neighboring countries. Besides the need to receive more information, a common concern among the Committee members was the capacity of the CAR to store and manage any weapons returned to it by the neighbouring countries. In accordance with the CAR request, the Chair circulated an amendment to the Committee Guidelines under an expedited no-objection silence procedure in order to allow the CAR to file for exemptions before the Committee. Silence was broken by Russia on 24 August, saying that as the matter lacks urgency, it wants more time to review the amended guidelines. The Chair then circulated the suggested amendments again, with the silence procedure now ending on 1 September.
Discussion of the Midterm Report of the Panel of Experts
At the meeting on 24 August the Committee also discussed the midterm report and its recommendations. In accordance with resolution 2196, the report is submitted to the Committee and will not become a public document. The report covers various provinces of the CAR and notes the continuing activity of armed groups and lack of security for the population accompanied by lack of accountability, despite the DDRR agreement. It seems that the report notes the increased activities of the Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain, one of the groups comprising the ex- Séléka, which refused to sign the agreement, and the increased activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in the CAR, expanding its activity westward.
During the Committee meeting, one issue discussed was the circulation of arms in the CAR and the need for proper storage and management of weapons. It seems members noted that the PoE has found that most arms (mainly light weapons) in circulation among the rebel groups in the CAR originate from CAR state stockpiles which, for the most part, do not comply with minimum safety requirements. At the same time, the PoE has reportedly found no evidence of significant trafficking of arms to the CAR from neighbouring countries since the imposition of the arms embargo, with the exception of hunting ammunition flowing in from Cameroon. During the meeting, several Council members raised the question of the Committee’s role with respect to this issue, and it seems that agreement was eventually reached that the Committee will send a letter to the CAR, urging it to enhance its weapons management capabilities.
Another issue that committee members discussed was reports by PoE, both in last year’s annual report (S/2014/762) and in the mid-term report, of killing, looting, destruction of property, forced displacement and extortion of CAR civilians by Chadian military personnel in the border area between the two countries. Council members are aware from these reports that in the absence of state authority and international forces in this area, local militias and armed group are becoming more active to fill the security vacuum. During the meeting on 21 August, the Chadian representative rejected the allegations against Chadian troops. It seems that the PoE has not identified these incidents as part of a government policy but rather the independent initiative of Chadian troops in the area.
One area apparently covered by the midterm report which may have been of particular interest in light of Murmokaité’s visit to the CAR, is the connection between armed groups and the diamond trade in south-west CAR. It seems that anti-balaka elements are involved in illicit diamond exploitation from mines, and in some cases have acquired mining cards from the authorities, allowing them to sell diamonds. (The PoE had previously reported to the Committee that much of the mining industry in the east is controlled by ex- Séléka elements.) Reportedly, rebel groups in CAR are also profiting from the trade in gold, timber, coffee and taxation of these commodities and others, as well as poaching.
New Sanctions Listings
On 20 August, the Committee announced that it had imposed sanctions on three individuals and one entity. These are the first additions to the sanctions list since 9 May 2014. Sanctions were imposed on anti-balaka commanders Alfred Yekatom and Habib Soussou for undermining the peace and stability of the CAR. Soussou was also listed for violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law by the anti-balaka in areas under his control in the town of Boda. Also listed was ex- Séléka general, Oumar Younous, for providing support to an armed group through the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources, including diamonds, to Sudan. A three-star general of the Séléka and close confidant of former interim president and Séléka leader, Michel Djotodia, Younous was also listed for undermining the peace and stability of the CAR.
The entity listed is a CAR diamond trading company, Bureau d’achat de Diamant en Centrafrique , (also registered in Belgium as Kardiam), for providing support to armed groups, namely ex-Séléka and anti-balaka, through the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources, including diamonds and gold.
While several permanent Council members have been hesitant about new sanctions listings, suggesting that this may negatively affect the political process in the CAR, some elected members, such as Lithuania, have regularly called for increased use of sanctions against individuals who are involved in criminal activities and not involved in the political process. It seems that France, the UK and the US proposed these latest listings after the Bangui Forum ended with the DDDR agreement.