What's In Blue

Posted Fri 15 Oct 2021

Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (18 October), the Security Council will meet for a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Central African Republic (CAR). Special Representative for the CAR and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) Mankeur Ndiaye will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest MINUSCA report (S/2021/867), which was issued on 12 October. Representatives of the AU and the EU, and a civil society briefer, are also likely to brief the Council.

Ndiaye is expected to describe his recent diplomatic outreach on the CAR, including a visit to Luanda, Angola from 5 to 7 October, where he met with Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço. Ndiaye was joined by Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) François Lounceny Fall. Ndiaye and Fall discussed the overall situation in the CAR and the wider region with Lourenço, who is also currently acting president of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The meeting focused on the ICGLR’s adoption of a Joint Road Map for Peace for the CAR at the ICGLR’s 16 September summit. The road map, among other things, called for the CAR government to declare a ceasefire between its security forces (FACA) and armed groups operating in the country.

On 15 October, CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra announced on national television a unilateral ceasefire and cessation of military operations against armed groups across the country. Noting that the ceasefire would take effect at midnight local time that night, Touadéra stated that this step was undertaken to “give peace a chance”. At Monday’s meeting, Ndiaye and Council members are likely to welcome this announcement.

Ndiaye is likely to tell the Council that progress on the implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation has been limited. While there has been some progress in preparing for a national dialogue, questions remain about the level of the dialogue’s inclusivity. Council members may be interested to learn what effect the 15 October ceasefire announcement and the ICGLR’s recently adopted road map can have in furthering the country’s peace and reconciliation processes.

Ndiaye’s visit to Luanda and the ICGLR’s call for a ceasefire took place in the context of serious security challenges in the CAR. Based on the Secretary-General’s report, Ndiaye is likely to convey to Council members that the security situation remains precarious, as FACA and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” continue to undertake a military offensive against armed groups. This offensive, coupled with counterattacks by armed groups, has harmed civilians and caused widespread displacement in central and western CAR.

Some Council members allege that the “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” are Russian military instructors and mercenaries. Russia maintains that the CAR government has invited its instructors to work with the CAR armed forces and denies that they have been involved in any violations.

The ongoing violence and its effect on the human rights situation in the country is another likely focus of Monday’s meeting. MINUSCA has documented 409 alleged and confirmed incidents of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, affecting 938 victims and causing 228 civilian deaths since 1 June. In several prefectures, human rights violations have disproportionately affected religious and ethnic minorities, such as Muslims and Fulanis. In addition, the recent fighting between the FACA and “bilaterally deployed forces” on the one hand and armed groups on the other has also resulted in 176 civilian deaths, which is a 47 percent increase from the previous four-month reporting period. According to MINUSCA, most civilian deaths result from “indiscriminate, disproportionate and excessive use of force by national defence forces and bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”.

Ndiaye may also raise the 4 August joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and MINUSCA, which provided details of the dire human rights situation in the CAR. The report, which covers the period from July 2020 to June, documents 526 incidents of abuse and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law across the country, affecting at least 1,221 victims. According to the report, the “FACA, Internal Security Forces (FSI) and other security personnel—including Russian military instructors…and private military contractors operating in the country—were responsible for 46 percent of the confirmed incidents”. Council members may ask to hear Ndiaye’s assessment of the steps being taken by the CAR government to address the human rights situation in the country.

The government has recently established a special investigation commission on human rights violations. Media reports have also indicated that a CAR government inquiry into human rights abuses from December 2020 to April concluded that both the FACA and Russian military instructors had been responsible for 104 human rights violations, including the killing of civilians.

Council members will likely be interested in hearing Ndiaye’s assessment on how the mission is fulfilling its protection of civilians mandate in light of the ongoing violence and military operations. MINUSCA peacekeepers, who played a key role in responding to armed group violence during the CAR’s electoral process in late 2020 and early 2021, continue to respond to threats and violence against civilians. In fulfilling its protection mandate, the mission deployed rapid intervention forces in several areas of the CAR over the summer in response to violence and to threats of attacks against civilians.

Ndiaye is also expected to raise concerns about status of forces agreement (SOFA) violations faced by MINUSCA. The Secretary-General’s report notes that the mission recorded 41 such violations from 1 June to 1 October – which involved the FACA, FSI and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” – and called these violations an “unacceptable level of hostile incidents targeting MINUSCA”. The mission has also been subject to disinformation campaigns. Council members may ask Ndiaye about the nature of both the SOFA violations and the disinformation campaign. They might also want further information on what actions the CAR authorities are taking to end these threats to the mission and its personnel.

The effects of the ongoing insecurity on the humanitarian situation in the country is another possible topic of discussion at Monday’s meeting. According to OCHA, there were approximately 713,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country as at 31 August. While there has been a drop in IDP numbers since early spring, 37,510 newly displaced people were recorded in August, due primarily to fighting in the north-west. Overall, the number of Central Africans in need of humanitarian assistance has risen in the past year. At this time last year, 2.36 million people in the CAR were considered food insecure; that number has now grown to over 2.6 million people, approximately 57 percent of the country’s population.

Monday’s meeting is expected to be the Council’s last meeting on the CAR before it renews MINUSCA’s mandate, which expires on 15 November. As such, Council members will be following closely Ndiaye’s briefing to assess areas in the mission’s mandate that may require further strengthening. There has been strong support overall among Council members for the work of MINUSCA. However, there are growing differences among some members on the situation in the country, including the alleged role of the Russian instructors and reports of Russian mercenaries in the CAR. The cooperation between the mission and the host government has also become more difficult in recent months, leading to questions about the government’s support for MINUSCA.