Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (22 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed 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) Valentine Rugwabiza will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest report on MINUSCA (S/2022/491), which was issued on 16 June and covers developments since the Secretary-General’s 16 February report. This will be Rugwabiza’s first briefing to the Council since her appointment on 24 February. A civil society representative from the CAR is also expected to brief.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members will be interested in hearing about progress in the implementation of the roadmap adopted by the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in support of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic. Since assuming her responsibilities in April, Rugwabiza has taken steps to reinvigorate the political track. In this regard, she may describe her visit to Luanda, Angola, in May to consult with the chair of the ICGLR, Angolan President João Lourenço. She might also refer to the strategic review meeting that subsequently took place in Bangui on 4 June in the presence of the Angolan and Rwandan foreign ministers, as well as other international and regional partners, to take stock of the progress and challenges in the implementation of the roadmap. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the participants in the 4 June meeting agreed on the need to meet regularly to monitor progress, based on a clear division of labour, benchmarks and timelines. Council members may welcome the holding of the strategic review meeting and underscore the need for concrete follow-up based on the ICGLR roadmap.
Rugwabiza will also likely provide updates on the republican dialogue that was convened by the CAR government from 22 to 27 March. The Secretary-General’s report says that the dialogue was characterised by heightened political tensions because of the decision by several opposition parties and civil society groups to withdraw from the dialogue over several concerns, including about the exclusion of armed groups from the process. While noting the holding of the republican dialogue, Council members may emphasise the need for the government to facilitate an inclusive political environment by involving all signatory parties to the 2019 political agreement that have renounced violence. The other contentious issue at the republican dialogue was a proposal for a revision of the constitution to lift the two-term limit of the president, which opposition and civil society representatives rejected. Although this was excluded from the final report of the republican dialogue, media reports indicate that supporters of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra have already submitted the proposal to the parliament.
For the first time in decades, local elections were expected to be held in the CAR in September. However, funding constraints and delays in adopting relevant legislation on administrative boundaries forced their postponement to 2023, according to the Secretary-General’s report. In this regard, Council members may support the Secretary-General’s call in his report for financial and technical assistance to facilitate the holding of local elections next year.
The security situation in the country remains volatile because of the activities of armed groups. MINUSCA had recorded 374 violations of the political agreement during the reporting period of the Secretary-General’s report, a decrease compared to the 396 violations registered in the previous reporting period. Most of these violations were committed by an armed group known as the Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC); the national defence forces and “other security personnel” have also committed several violations. The Secretary-General’s report notes that the national defence forces and “other security personnel” have been using former members of armed groups as proxies to conduct military operations at mining sites. (Some Council members prefer to avoid the ambiguity of using the term “other security personnel”, which appears to be a reference to the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company.)
The Secretary-General’s report notes that armed groups, national defence forces and other security personnel have continued to commit crimes such as extortion, illegal taxation, and sexual violence. It highlights protection challenges in the various prefectures, where civilians have faced intimidation, reprisal attacks and displacement. MINUSCA had documented human rights violations and abuses committed by all actors, and the Secretary-General’s report indicates that the 138 documented incidents were allegedly perpetrated by armed groups, while national defence and security forces and other security personnel were responsible for 118 incidents. These figures represent a decrease of 41.77 percent and 32.57 percent, respectively, compared to the previous reporting period. Despite this, the impact of the ongoing violence on the human rights situation in the country remains worrisome, and some Council members may express their continued concerns at tomorrow’s meeting.
Council members may also raise issues around the role of MINUSCA and the need to build trust between the CAR authorities and the mission. In particular, there have been concerns about the continued violations of the status of forces agreement (SOFA), which the Secretary-General’s report says have increased slightly in the reporting period, with 23 SOFA violations attributed to members of the national defence forces and “other security personnel”. Rugwabiza may update Council members about the recent establishment of a coordination mechanism by the CAR Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, to address issues and concerns related to the SOFA’s implementation.
In July, the Council is expected to extend the CAR sanctions regime and renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee. The arms embargo, in place since 2013, remains controversial. Last year, China abstained on the vote renewing the arms embargo and expressed concern that “the text failed to fully respect the wish of the Government of the Central African Republic for the lifting of the embargo”. At the last Council meeting on the CAR, which took place on 22 February, Baïpo-Temon reiterated her country’s request to the Council to consider lifting the arms embargo in order to allow the CAR to enhance the effectiveness of its defence and security forces. At that meeting, Executive Secretary of the ICGLR João Samuel Caholo underscored the need to reconsider the arms embargo, arguing that it continues to impinge on CAR’s ability to safeguard its territorial integrity and restore law and order.
However, Council members were divided on this issue. African members and China supported CAR’s request for the complete lifting of the arms embargo, while Russia called for the easing of the arms embargo, ultimately leading to its full lifting. On the other hand, France, the UK and the US argued against the lifting of the embargo, maintaining that it does not prevent the CAR government from acquiring military equipment. They also maintained that the decision should be part of an overall strategy attuned to progress on the political track. Furthermore, they indicated that it is difficult to think of introducing any changes to the sanctions regime in the face of continued human rights abuses in the country. Some of these views could be reflected at tomorrow’s meeting, especially in light of the upcoming negotiations in July.
The other contentious issue was related to the appointment of the Panel of Experts. Russia had placed a hold on the appointment for several months, calling for increased geographical diversity. Three of the five panel members were appointed only in April. The UN Secretariat has been in the process of recruiting two additional members. One additional expert was appointed on 1 June, and another expert is expected to be appointed soon. Even though the Panel of Experts was supposed to present a mid-term report in January pursuant to resolution 2588 of 29 July 2021, they were not able to do so, as only three experts started to work in April. But they were able to travel to Bangui and talk to the CAR authorities. Their final report, circulated to Council members last week, is expected to be discussed by the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee on 24 June.