Central African Republic: Adoption of a Resolution Strengthening MINUSCA*
Tomorrow (12 March), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution raising the troop ceiling of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), increasing the mission’s existing military component by 2,750 and its police component by 940. In accordance with COVID-19 voting procedures, the Security Council commenced its 24-hour written voting procedure today on the draft resolution. The US, Council president this month, will read out the results of the vote tomorrow afternoon.
The decision to provide the mission with the troop and police reinforcements comes during a period of heightened instability in the CAR, which has seen a rash of violence led by a new coalition of armed groups, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), which has challenged the authority of the current CAR government and aims to disrupt the CAR’s electoral process. Since mid-December, the CPC has battled MINUSCA troops and Central African armed forces (FACA), as well as Russian and Rwandan forces that are in the CAR at the request of the CAR government, in an effort to gain control of several towns. In January, the CPC surrounded Bangui and largely cut off Bangui’s main supply route with Cameroon, threatening the delivery of food and humanitarian and medical supplies.
An initial draft was circulated by France, the penholder on the Central African Republic (CAR), to all Council members on 5 March; one round of negotiations amongst all members was held on 8 March. On 9 March, France put a revised draft text under silence. On 10 March, silence was broken by Russia. China, Mexico and the three African members—Kenya, Niger and Tunisia—as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines requested minor changes. On 11 March, the current draft text was put in blue. France has been aiming for adoption of the resolution by 12 March in order to send a signal of support to the CAR in anticipation of the second round of legislative elections scheduled for 14 March. CAR’s current wave of violence is related to the organisation of the presidential election and the first round of legislative elections, both held on 27 December 2020.
During several Council meetings on the CAR over the past three months, members have expressed strong support for the work of MINUSCA and conveyed their readiness to authorise further resources to the mission to help it address the current crisis. In line with the Secretary-General’s 16 February report to the Council on the situation in the CAR, the draft resolution notes that the new reinforcements “are aimed at enhancing MINUSCA’s ability to perform its priority mandated tasks in the current evolving context, in particular protection of civilians and facilitation of humanitarian access, and at enabling the Mission to enhance its capacity to prevent and reverse a further deterioration in the security situation while creating space for the political process to advance”.
The draft resolution further reiterates that the mission’s “new capabilities are not a substitute for the national authorities’ primary responsibility to advance the peace process and protect the population”. In addition to raising the troop ceiling, the draft resolution notes that “these reinforcements should be sequenced through a phased approach” and requests the Secretary-General to “review implementation, performance and necessity ahead of each phase”. The draft also calls on the Secretary-General to include in his regular report on the situation in the CAR, due by 11 October 2021, a “proposal on the overall configuration of MINUSCA’s Force”, suggesting that the additional capacities could be removed, allowing for MINUSCA to return to its normal troop level.
Given the urgency of the matter and the need for the relatively rapid deployment of troops, the draft in blue was kept comparatively succinct and the preambular paragraphs were drawn largely from the 22 January press statement issued by Council members on the CAR. Council members had agreed that statement following their 21 January meeting on the CAR.
One often contentious issue on the CAR amongst Council members is how to reference the arms embargo imposed on the country by resolution 2127 in 2013. While several Council members felt that the issue did not belong in a resolution reinforcing the mission’s troop and police strength, the draft resolution takes note of the “request of the CAR authorities to lift the arms embargo and of the positions expressed by ECCAS and ICGLR” and, echoing the Council’s 22 January press statement, “reiterat[es] its readiness to review the arms embargo measures, through inter alia suspension or progressive lifting, in the light of progress achieved on the key benchmarks established by the Security Council”.
Russia apparently broke silence on the text, arguing that language be included that would require MINUSCA to keep the CAR authorities closely informed of how it intends to roll out each phase of the deployments. Ultimately, a compromise was reached that recalls “the importance of cooperation between MINUSCA and the CAR authorities in line with its mandate”. On 23 February, the CAR government sent a letter to the Council requesting that the mission’s troop numbers be increased.
*Post-script: On 12 March, resolution 2566 raising the MINUSCA troop ceiling received 14 votes for with the Russian Federation abstaining.