Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (22 February), the Security Council will convene for a briefing, followed by consultations, on the Central African Republic (CAR). Special Representative for 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 report on MINUSCA (S/2022/119), which was issued on 15 February. This will be Ndiaye’s final briefing to the Council. Ndiaye’s term ends on 28 February and the Secretary-General has expressed his intention to appoint Valentine Rugwabiza, the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN, as the next Special Representative. The Executive Secretary of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), João Samuel Caholo, is the other anticipated briefer. The CAR Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, is also expected to participate.
Ndiaye and Caholo are likely to provide updates on developments since the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra on 15 October 2021. Members will be particularly interested in hearing about progress in the implementation of the joint roadmap adopted by the ICGLR within the framework of the 2019 Political Agreement. Council members see this as key to facilitating dialogue between the government and armed groups and may reiterate their support for this regional approach. Ndiaye and Caholo may refer to a 26 November 2021 meeting that the AU, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the European Union, ICGLR, and the UN held with President Touadéra via videoconference as part of a regular dialogue on the peace process. They may also mention the first meeting on the ICGLR roadmap in Bangui on 14 January.
The Secretary-General’s report states that while the unilateral ceasefire was an important step, political tensions continued in the face of limited progress in implementing the political agreement and the republican dialogue launched by the government to facilitate the political process. In this regard, Ndiaye may cover the controversy surrounding the lifting of parliamentary immunity of three prominent opposition members as part of the investigation of former president François Bozizé who was accused by the government of trying to stage a coup. The Coalition of the Democratic Opposition, made up of 12 opposition parties, withdrew their representatives in the Republican Dialogue Organising Committee and only resumed their participation once judicial proceedings against the three opposition members were withdrawn. This decision is expected to facilitate the republican dialogue, which according to the Secretary-General’s report, is now scheduled to take place in March.
The security situation in the country remains volatile, despite the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire. The Secretary-General’s report notes that the withdrawal of one of the armed groups, Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC), from the 2019 Political Agreement on 29 November 2021, contributed to the deterioration of the security situation. Ndiaye may provide information on the ongoing military operations by national defence forces in the western part of the country along the border with Chad and Cameroon as well as in the central regions. The report indicates that they are conducting these operations with the support of “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”, while armed groups respond with asymmetrical attacks.
The Secretary-General’s report highlights protection challenges in three particular prefectures – Haute-Kotto, Nana-Grébizi and Ouaka – where minority communities were targeted. The report, which covers the period since 12 October 2021, states that there has been a small decrease (0.03 percent) in the number of incidents but an increase (5.5 percent) in the number of victims compared to the last reporting period. The impact of the ongoing violence on the human rights situation in the country has been a matter of serious concern for Council members. In this context, members may ask Ndiaye to confirm that human rights violations continue unabated with the targeting and abuse of civilians.
The issue of human rights abuses by “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” was a major focus when the Council last discussed the situation in CAR on 18 October 2021. It will most likely also be raised at tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that of the 413 documented incidents of human rights violations and abuses, 175 were allegedly perpetrated by national defence and security forces and other security personnel, affecting 430 victims. The figures reported represent a decrease of 24.9 percent of incidents of human rights violations and a 17 percent fall in the number of victims. Some Council members are of the opinion that the report does not provide sufficient information on the human rights abuses being committed in the country. These members may reiterate their call on the government to fight impunity against all actors, including the Wagner Group.
Some members may raise concerns about the Wagner Group, as they did at the last meeting, when France, along with some other members, characterised the group’s presence as destabilising. France also called for the removal of ambiguity created by the use of the phrase “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel” from UN reports. Russia maintains that its instructors are in the country at CAR’s request and with the knowledge of the 2127 CAR sanctions committee. It also denies that the instructors are involved in hostilities and wants possible violations to be investigated by the CAR authorities.
Council members may also raise issues around the role of MINUSCA and the need to build trust between the CAR authorities and the mission. At the last meeting, Council members expressed concerns about the disinformation campaign against MINUSCA and the continued violation of the status of forces agreement (SOFA), which is hindering the mission from effectively carrying out its mandated tasks. The Secretary-General’s report indicates that while incidents of disinformation and SOFA violations decreased slightly, 17 SOFA violations were still recorded in the reporting period, attributed to members of the “national defence forces and other security personnel”, including obstruction to the freedom of movement of MINUSCA patrols, and threats against UN personnel. Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first since MINUSCA’s mandate was renewed in November 2021 for another 12 months. China and Russia abstained on the vote, arguing that the text did not take into account the views of the host country.
The issue of the arms embargo, in place since 2013, could also be raised at tomorrow’s meeting, although it is not expected to be a major focus. Baïpo-Temon may reiterate President Touadéra’s request to the Council in October 2021 to consider lifting the arms embargo in order to allow his country to enhance the effectiveness of its defence and security forces. Some Council members, including the African members, may support this request in order to express solidarity with CAR, but the penholder and others may argue that the sanctions regime is sufficiently flexible to allow the country’s defence and security forces to equip themselves and strengthen their operational capacities. Russia has blocked the appointment of experts to the Panel of Experts supporting the CAR sanctions regime for the past six months. In this regard, some members could express disappointment that the Panel has not been able to carry out its work and stress the need to appoint the Panel as soon as possible.