Central African Republic Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (20 February), the Security Council will meet for a briefing and consultations on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and Head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye will brief the Council. Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the EU Delegation to the United Nations; Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s CAR configuration; and Matias Bertino Matondo, AU Special Representative and head of the AU Office in the Central African Republic, will also brief.
The briefers are likely to take stock of the implementation of the Political Peace Agreement, which was signed in Bangui by the CAR government and 14 armed groups on 6 February 2019. In his latest report of 14 February, the Secretary-General notes that since the signing of the agreement there has been a decrease in the overall levels of violence in the CAR, although serious incidents of violence and human rights violations have persisted over the past year. He attributes delays in the full implementation of the peace agreement to a lack of good faith by armed groups—noting in particular the three main ex-Séléka armed groups, the 3R (Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation) group and anti-balaka groups—and the “nominal” commitment by some parts of the CAR government, especially the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic. The Secretary-General warns that “peace and stability in the CAR remain fragile”, while stressing the imperative of avoiding another cycle of conflict.
The briefers and Council members are likely to refer to the precarious security situation in the CAR. In this regard, hostilities erupted on 16 February when the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) armed group launched an attack on the south-eastern town of Birao in the Vakaga prefecture. MINUSCA peacekeepers, along with members of the Central African Army, were able to repel FPRC fighters threatening a camp for internally displaced people, a MINUSCA base and a Central African Army base. Furthermore, clashes which took place on 25 January in the eastern city of Bria between different factions of the FPRC resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people and the displacement of more than 11,000 civilians. According to MINUSCA, the situation in Bria remains calm but volatile.
Another issue of concern likely to be raised is the dire humanitarian situation in the CAR, which is exacerbated by conflict-related violence and natural disasters. According to OCHA estimates, approximately 2.6 million people (over half of the population) will need humanitarian assistance in 2020. At the end of January, 669,000 civilians in the CAR were internally displaced and an additional 593,000 people were seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
The upcoming presidential, legislative and local elections, which are set to take place in December 2020 and early 2021, are also likely to be a focus of the meeting. Regional and international partners view these elections as a critical juncture in CAR’s political development. In his most recent briefing to the Council on 25 October 2019, Ndiaye warned that “a serious delay in holding the next elections could create a vacuum at the highest echelon of the State and lead to another political transition that some political actors are strongly calling for but which would…be harmful to the consolidation of democracy, stability and peace in the Central African Republic”.
The Security Council decided in resolution 2499 (2019), which renewed MINUSCA’s mandate until 15 November 2020, to authorise a role for MINUSCA in supporting the CAR authorities in the preparations for the elections. This support includes security, operational, logistical and, as appropriate, technical support, in particular to facilitate access to remote areas.
Preparations for the elections are underway, with the process of mapping for voter registration and polling sites having been launched in Bangui on 21 November. However, the Secretary General notes in his report that there have been delays in preparations due to a lack of funds in the UNDP basket fund intended for facilitating the elections.
Concerns have also been raised that electoral dynamics might serve to undermine the implementation of the peace agreement. In particular, the return of former presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia to the CAR on 15 December 2019 and 10 January, respectively, could have a destabilising effect on the already fragile political climate in the country. On 21 January, CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra met with Bozizé and Djotodia, along with former heads of state Catherine Samba-Panza and Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet. In a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, the AU, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the UN welcomed the exchanges between Touadéra and the four former heads of state and stated that these exchanges will contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in the CAR.
Bozizé, who was listed under Security Council sanctions for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of CAR” in 2014, stated during a press conference on 27 January that he sees no reason that would prevent him from becoming a candidate in the upcoming elections. He added that it remains up to his party, the former ruling Kwa Na Kwa party, to designate its candidate.
During tomorrow’s meeting, Ambassador Hilale is likely to brief on his 12 to 14 February visit to the CAR, where he met with President Touadéra and representatives from civil society. During the visit he reaffirmed the UN’s support for the organisation of transparent and democratic elections in the country, stressing that it is imperative for the stability of the country and the whole region that these elections be held in a timely manner.
Council members might be interested to hear from the briefers about progress in the preparation for the elections and what can be done to ensure they are carried out according to the electoral timeline. Some members might be interested to hear the briefers’ assessment regarding the effects of the return of the former presidents on the political stability in CAR. Council members may also inquire what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of MINUSCA peacekeepers, especially in light of the 10 February MINUSCA press statement indicating that MINUSCA officials have been the target of attacks on social media and in several newspapers.
Council members may issue a press statement or press elements following tomorrow’s briefing and consultations. Such a product might take note of the progress achieved in the past year and the challenges remaining in the implementation of the peace agreement, while calling on all parties to fully implement their commitments under the agreement. It could also stress the need for holding timely and credible elections in the CAR and express support for MINUSCA’s endeavors in facilitating the elections and upholding safety and security in the country.
In its most recent product on the CAR, the Council adopted resolution 2507 on 31 January renewing the mandate of the CAR sanctions regime. While previous mandate renewals of the CAR sanctions regime were adopted unanimously, China and Russia abstained on resolution 2507, citing their view that the Council should do more towards the complete lifting of sanctions on the CAR government. (For more on this, see our What’s In Blue story from 31 January).