What's In Blue

Posted Tue 12 Jan 2021

Security Council Members to Discuss Central African Republic under “Any Other Business”

Tomorrow (13 January) Security Council members will discuss the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) under “any other business” at the request of France, the penholder on CAR. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief. The request to discuss the situation in CAR comes after a series of attacks by armed groups against Central African armed forces (FACA) in towns across the CAR in recent weeks both in the run-up to, and following, the 27 December 2020 presidential elections. It also follows a briefing for Council members by Lacroix on the escalating situation in the CAR under “any other business” on 21 December at the onset of the recent wave of violence. Council members are expected to issue press elements.

Lacroix will brief Council members on the increasing violence that has occurred over the past three weeks. He is also likely to describe how the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has responded to the situation. One week before the elections, armed groups attacked several towns outside Bangui, CAR’s capital; MINUSCA forces were deployed on 20 December to two municipalities to the north-west of Bangui, which had been targets of attacks by the armed groups. On 23 December, MINUSCA reported that it had retaken control of the town of Bambari, 235 miles north-east of Bangui, which had briefly fallen to armed groups. Three MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi—who had been attacked by armed opposition groups in Dékoa, approximately 160 miles north of Bangui—lost their lives on 25 December.

Tomorrow’s meeting continues the Council’s recent engagement on the CAR in response to the crisis. On 23 December, the Council approved Secretary-General António Guterres’ proposal to temporarily redeploy two infantry companies and two military utility helicopters from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to assist MINUSCA for a two-month period. Council members will be keen to hear how the redeployment of forces from UNMISS is proceeding and if a longer-term deployment may be necessary.

The CAR authorities have blamed the outbreak of violence on former president François Bozizé, who announced on 25 July that he would run in the elections, but whose candidacy was rejected by CAR’s Supreme Court on 3 December. (Bozizé was listed under Security Council sanctions in 2014 for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of CAR”.) To help quell the violence, CAR authorities also requested military assistance from Rwanda and Russia, which both sent troops and supplies in support of the FACA.

International media sources reported numerous low-level violent incidents on election day, and there were reports that voting did not take place in 29 of CAR’s 71 sub-prefectures. On 30 December, the Democratic Opposition Coalition (COD-2020), which consists of a number of opposition presidential candidates (including Bozizé), called for the results to be annulled, claiming that there had been widespread fraud. Despite this, the head of CAR’s National Elections Authority declared on 4 January that incumbent president Faustin-Archange Touadéra had won re-election. Touadéra gained an absolute majority of 53.9 percent of the vote in the first round, obviating the need for a second round in February. The results are expected to be certified by CAR’s Constitutional Court on 19 January.

Lacroix is also likely to update the Council on attacks that have taken place since the elections, offering an assessment of MINUSCA’s role in helping to repel these assaults and fulfilling its protection of civilians mandate. These attacks include: an assault by armed forces allied with Bozizé on 2 January on the town of Damara, which lies 50 miles north of Bangui, and a 3 January assault on a FACA military post in the town of Bangassou, some 450 miles east of Bangui along CAR’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mankeur Ndiaye, UN Special Representative and Head of MINUSCA, noted on 3 January that these attacks “take place in a context of disruption of the elections – before, during and after the polls”.

Lacroix may also use his briefing to the Council to offer an assessment of the status of CAR’s February 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, given that a number of the armed groups behind the recent violence are signatories to that agreement.

On 5 January, Lacroix issued a joint statement on the CAR with Smaїl Chergui, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security; Gilberto da Piedade Veríssimo, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs. That statement called on the CAR government and all other parties to engage in “an inclusive, open, constructive and credible political dialogue to promote national stability” and noted that it is “up to the Constitutional Court of the Central African Republic to proclaim the final results and to all political actors to respect the decisions of the Court”. Council members are likely to echo these sentiments.

Lacroix will probably also update members on events that took place this past weekend: on 9 January, several armed groups attacked the towns of Bouar, some 270 miles north-west of Bangui and Grimari, approximately 185 miles north-east of Bangui. In both instances, MINUSCA assisted the FACA to repulse the attacks; in Bouar, MINUSCA deployed air assets in support of their operations. According to MINUSCA, nearly 4,000 people have taken refuge in Bouar’s cathedral and are being protected by MINUSCA police in the city.

The impact of the violence on CAR’s civilian population is also expected to be a focus of the meeting. According to UNHCR, since election day, over 30,000 people have been forced to flee into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, DRC, and the Republic of the Congo. Since 15 December, another 185,000 have become internally displaced, having fled into CAR’s bush and forests; according to OHCA, 112,000 have now returned to their homes.