Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (24 February), Security Council members will discuss the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) in an open videoconference (VTC). The Council will be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix; AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smaїl Chergui; the EU’s European External Action Service Managing Director for Africa Rita Laranjinha; and Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Director of URU, a CAR-based, youth-led peacebuilding civil society organisation. A closed VTC is likely to follow.
Tomorrow’s meeting is the regularly scheduled quarterly meeting on the CAR but comes during a period of heightened instability in the country. In this regard, the Council has met on three occasions since 23 December 2020 to discuss the growing insecurity in CAR in light of violence surrounding the presidential election and the first round of legislative elections, which were both held on 27 December. Since the Council last met on CAR on 21 January, the situation has remained very fluid: two days after the CAR authorities announced a 15-day state of emergency on 22 January, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC)—a recently formed alliance of armed groups responsible for both pre- and post-elections violence—surrounded Bangui. As a result, Bangui’s main supply route with Cameroon was cut off, threatening to imperil delivery of food and humanitarian and medical supplies and raising the spectre of a humanitarian crisis.
On 25 January, the CAR government announced that Central African armed forces (FACA) troops, working with “allied forces”, reportedly a reference to Russian and Rwandan troops, pushed back the CPC forces in several locations, but the status of the main supply route from Cameroon remained unclear. On 8 February, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) announced that a convoy of 13 vehicles carrying humanitarian aid arrived in Bangui under escort from MINUSCA troops. A week later, on 17 February, CAR’s Transport Minister told state television that commercial convoys from Cameroon had also resumed after CPC forces were again repelled from the main road. However, insecurity on the main road persists and the number of convoys remains insufficient to provide adequate food and medicines to Bangui. Lacroix is likely to update the Council on steps the mission and CAR authorities have been taking to secure the roads into Bangui and what challenges remain to ensure the longer-term security of the main route from Cameroon.
In addition to learning about the effect that the road closures have had on food stocks, Council members are likely to want to be updated on the overall humanitarian situation. According to OCHA’s February 2021 situation report on the CAR, violence over the past two months has led to the displacement of over 240,000 people within the Central African Republic since mid-December; OCHA has determined that in 2021, 2.8 million Central Africans—57 percent of the population—will need humanitarian assistance and protection. Of those, three-quarters have acute needs, leading OCHA to conclude that “the survival of 1.9 million people is at risk”.
CAR’s political situation will also be a focus of the Council session. In light of the CAR government’s announcement that the second round of legislative elections will be organised on 14 March, Council members will be interested in being updated on the logistical and security preparations for the elections. The elections will be organised in regions where they could not be held on 27 December due to violence, as well as in places where the vote was held, but the results were inconclusive, leading to a second round. Only 22 out of 140 members of the CAR national assembly won their seats outright in the first round. The Secretary-General’s recent report notes that the electoral security plan that had been agreed between MINUSCA and the CAR government envisioned that the FACA would be the first responders to any security threats; however, the reports notes, MINUSCA “was compelled to assume most security responsibilities due to the failure of the national forces to deploy agreed numbers before the elections, combined with significant defections and desertions”. Council members will want to learn about the ways in which the mission and the government are addressing this issue, especially given the security challenges the upcoming elections entail.
Another political issue that the Council is likely to be briefed on is the current state of the national dialogue. Despite the second anniversary of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR, which was signed on 6 February 2019, political dialogue appears to have halted. As illustrated in Council members’ 22 January press elements, there appears to be strong consensus amongst Council members that the CAR authorities and other actors in the country must “engage effectively in dialogue”. The Secretary-General’s 16 February report to the Council states that it is “critical to advance efforts to end the current crisis through broad and inclusive dialogue” and calls on CAR President Faustin-Archange Toudéra, who won re-election on 27 December with nearly 54 percent of the vote, to “consolidate his legacy by prioritizing leading and consolidating national reconciliation and dialogue efforts in his second term”. Council members will be interested to hear from the briefers how the dialogue process is proceeding in the current context and what steps Toudéra has taken to advance dialogue and reconciliation.
Lacroix is also likely to discuss the provision of support to the mission, in light of the escalating violence and the increased need to protect civilians. On 23 December, the Council approved Secretary-General António Guterres’ initial proposal to temporarily redeploy forces from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to assist MINUSCA for a two-month period, which was subsequently extended to the end of April. In his briefing to the Council on 22 January, UN Special Representative and head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye stated that “a substantial increase of uniformed troops in the mission” was needed. The Secretary-General’s recent report reiterates this message, stating that 2,750 military and 940 additional police reinforcements are needed to assist MINUSCA to prevent “further deterioration in the security situation while creating space for the political process to advance”. Earlier today, the Council also received a letter from the CAR government requesting that the mission’s troop numbers be increased. Council members will want to hear more about this request and gain a deeper understanding of what operational capacities and impact could be expected from these potential deployments.
Chergui is expected to brief the Council in line with the AU’s 16 February communiqué on the situation in the CAR, including the AU’s support to MINUSCA’s request for human and material resources to fulfil its mandate, while Laranjinha is likely to focus her briefing on the status of the EU Training Mission in CAR, especially amidst reports of FACA troops abandoning their positions during the recent unrest.
Finally, Ekomo-Soignet, who was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as an expert for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security under resolution 2250, is likely to describe to the Council her organisation’s efforts to promote improved engagement in politics and reconciliation efforts in the CAR.