Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (23 June), the Security Council will convene in person for an open briefing on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the Secretary-General’s most recent report (S/2021/571) on the Central African Republic (CAR). Mankeur Ndiaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the CAR and head of MINUSCA, and Bankole Adeoye, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, are expected to brief the Council. Angolan President and Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, European External Action Service (EEAS) Managing Director for Africa Rita Laranjinha, and a representative of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are also expected to brief the Council.
A major focus for tomorrow’s meeting is likely to be the increasing number of status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) violations against MINUSCA troops and UN personnel by the Central African armed forces (FACA), as well as by external military forces supporting the FACA. According to the Secretary-General’s latest report on MINUSCA, there has been an “unacceptable and unprecedented increase in hostile threats and incidents by the national security force and bilaterally deployed other security personnel targeting MINUSCA”. Since February 2021, there have been 22 reported SOFA violations (compared with two such violations during the previous reporting period).
Council members are likely to raise concerns about the increase in violations and may seek further information on several high-profile incidents mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. This includes a 30 May incident when a delegation led by MINUSCA’s Deputy Special Representative was obstructed by “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” from accessing an area near the CAR border with Chad and Cameroon. Council members may seek clarification on who, specifically, the “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” refer to in the report.
The rising number of SOFA violations was also raised during a 7 June discussion of Council members on the CAR, which took place under “any other business”. Briefing via videoconference that day, Ndiaye outlined a series of violations against MINUSCA patrols and UN personnel. Some Council members apparently alleged that Russian military instructors were involved in the SOFA violations, though Russia denied this. Earlier on 7 June, during the Council’s separate meeting on the activities of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), similar accusations were levied against Russia; the United States alluded to reports that “Russian instructors led military offensives characterized by confrontations with UN peacekeepers, threats against UN personnel, violations of international humanitarian law, extensive sexual violence and widespread looting.” Russia responded that the US’s comments were an effort to “give Russia a bad name and, in particular, to undermine [its] effective efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation” in the CAR.
Ndiaye is also likely to raise an ongoing disinformation campaign targeting MINUSCA officials, which, according to the Secretary-General’s report, “seek[s] to incite hatred and violence” and has imperilled MINUSCA staff. During a 2-6 June high-level joint UN, AU, EU and ECCAS visit to the CAR, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix noted to the press that the campaign consists of “messages of hatred, disinformation and hostile demonstrations [that]…are sometimes conveyed and organized by people who come from the majority in power”. The SOFA violations and the disinformation campaign were raised with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra during the high-level visit. Council members may enquire about what steps the CAR authorities have since taken to address both the SOFA violations and disinformation campaign and whether President Touadéra’s subsequent public condemnations of incitement against MINUSCA have had any mitigating effect.
The high-level delegation also raised the need for further progress on the CAR government’s political dialogue and implementation of the February 2019 political agreement signed by the government and armed groups. The ICGLR briefer is likely to reiterate the call on the international community, as set out in a 20 April ICGLR statement, to “join regional efforts aimed at providing support to the efforts initiated by the CAR with a view to revitalizing the Political Agreement”.
Ndiaye is also likely to tell the Council that the CAR’s human rights situation has deteriorated significantly during the reporting period. Echoing the Secretary-General’s report, he may explain that while armed groups are responsible for the majority of human rights violations, MINUSCA has assessed that the FACA and the “bilaterally deployed security personnel” have perpetrated a total of 140 incidents of human rights violations affecting 249 victims since February. As such, Council members may be interested to learn more about the decree issued by the CAR Ministry of Justice, creating a commission of inquiry that is meant to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the FACA and “bilaterally deployed security personnel”.
Ndiaye is expected to highlight the country’s fragile security environment and its dire humanitarian situation. Council members may be interested to hear the briefers’ threat assessment of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – the coalition of armed groups that perpetrated the country’s recent elections-related violence in late 2020 and early 2021. While the Secretary-General’s recent report suggests that the CPC has been weakened, Council members will likely want to learn about how serious a threat the CPC continues to pose to civilian populations and the FACA. Council members will also be interested in learning more about the 30 May skirmish on the border between CAR and Chad, where Chadian troops clashed with FACA and Russian military instructors, resulting in the death of six Chadian soldiers and three Russian military instructors. Council members may ask about the status of the independent international commission, which was established on 1 June to investigate the incident.
The country’s humanitarian crisis continues unabated: nearly 2.8 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection, while an 11 June OCHA report states that the country’s “health system is barely functioning”. These difficulties have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the persistent violence that has created approximately 729,000 internally displaced persons and driven an additional 695,000 people to flee the country.
Finally, the highly contentious issue of the arms embargo imposed on the CAR since 2013 is likely to be raised by the ICGLR and ECCAS briefers. The 2127 CAR sanctions regime, which includes the arms embargo, is set to expire at the end of July, and Council members will begin negotiations on its renewal in the coming weeks. Some Council members, including the P3, argue that the government can procure the arms it requires given numerous exemptions in the arms embargo, while China and Russia have maintained that the Council should ease the arms embargo with the aim of lifting it completely to help improve the government’s security capacities. The ICGLR and ECCAS are likely to tell Council members that the arms embargo should be lifted. In its 20 April statement, the ICGLR noted that the presidents of the ICGLR and ECCAS should “make the necessary diligences with the…Security Council on the [CAR’s] appeal for the lifting of the arms embargo”.