Central African Republic: Vote on a Draft Resolution Extending the Sanctions Regime*
This afternoon (29 July) at 2 pm EST, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the sanctions measures on the Central African Republic (CAR) until 31 July 2023 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2023.
France, the penholder on the CAR, circulated a first draft of the resolution on 15 July and convened one round of expert-level negotiations on 19 July. After Council members submitted additional comments, the penholder placed the draft resolution under silence procedure last Friday (22 July) until Monday morning (25 July). China, Gabon, Kenya and Russia broke silence. A further revised text was then placed in blue on Tuesday (26 July), to be voted on Thursday (28 July). However, on Wednesday afternoon (27 July), Russia proposed an alternative draft resolution on the sanctions regime, which it also placed in blue, and the vote was postponed. Following additional bilateral discussions, France placed a compromise text in blue yesterday evening, to be voted on this afternoon.
The negotiations revolved around the question of further easing or lifting entirely the arms embargo on the CAR government. The CAR has requested the lifting of the arms embargo for several years, doing so most recently in letters to the Council dated 8 June and 19 July. In response, the Council has adjusted the arms embargo measures on several occasions by exempting certain weapons (meaning that the delivery of such weapons does not require approval from the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, only that the committee be notified ahead of the delivery).
Ahead of this year’s sanctions regime renewal, several Council members have expressed support for the CAR’s call for lifting the arms embargo. China, Russia, and the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya in their joint statement) set out this position at the Council’s 22 June briefing on the CAR. These members believe that the arms embargo disadvantages the government in its fight against armed groups, which are illegally acquiring increasingly sophisticated weapons. They also maintain that the exemptions process is cumbersome. Their position has been shaped in part by calls from regional actors—the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)—to lift the embargo. Despite their joint statements, African Council members are not fully aligned in their position, with Ghana preferring a progressive easing of the arms embargo instead of its full removal.
Other members—including France, the UK and the US—have opposed lifting the arms embargo because of the continued volatile situation in the CAR and their concerns about the potential effects of the unregulated flow of arms into the country should the embargo be removed. They note that the 2127 Sanctions Committee has approved every exemption request, allowing the CAR government to acquire the weapons it needs. These members also point to the benchmarks set out in the Council’s 9 April 2019 presidential statement to guide the easing of the arms embargo. The Secretary-General said in his latest assessment on progress achieved on these benchmarks, dated 14 June, that the authorities still need to take further steps to fulfill the benchmarks, in particular, to implement the national disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation programme (DDRR) and to establish a more effective weapons and ammunition management system.
The initial draft circulated by the penholder proposed exempting mortars with a calibre of 120 mm from the arms embargo. This represented a further easing of the arms embargo, as resolution 2588 of 29 July 2021—which most recently extended the CAR sanctions regime—exempted mortars with a calibre of 60 mm. However, this was not satisfactory for members wanting to lift the arms embargo. In the revised text placed under silence procedure last Friday (22 July), the penholder further increased the calibre of arms that are to be exempted from the embargo, based on a request by Ghana: from 120 mm to 155 mm mortars and from 14 mm to 20 mm weapons, including weapons for ground military vehicles with mounted weapons.
In breaking silence on Monday, China, Gabon, Kenya and Russia apparently reiterated their call to lift fully the arms embargo. The draft resolution that France placed in blue on Tuesday contained some additional revisions, but the substantive elements on the arms embargo were left unchanged.
On Wednesday, Russia introduced an alternative draft resolution and placed it in blue. Its draft text lifted the arms embargo on the CAR government. It also removed requirements for other entities in the CAR, which previous sanctions resolutions have exempted from the embargo (such as the EU training missions deployed in the country), to notify or gain the approval of the 2127 Committee to receive military supplies or assistance.
Bilateral negotiations between France and Russia led to a compromise. The new draft resolution in blue no longer restricts the weapons that the CAR government can receive. The supplying states or organisations still must notify the 2127 Committee in advance about such deliveries or assistance. However, the draft resolution in blue relaxes the notification requirement: whereas supplying states or organisations were previously required to provide notice at least 20 days in advance, the draft text in blue only calls on them to do so “in advance”, without specifying a timeframe. Provisions of military supplies for other entities in the CAR that are exempted from the embargo also still require notification to the committee.
Other updates to this year’s sanctions resolution include the addition of elements from resolution 2605 of 12 November 2021 that renewed the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This language condemns cross-border criminal activities, such as arms trafficking, illicit trade, illegal exploitation, and trafficking of natural resources—including gold, diamonds, timber, and wildlife—and the use of mercenaries and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by them.
During the negotiations, the A3 apparently sought for the resolution to take a more positive tone towards the government in several instances where the draft resolution outlines different actions that the authorities should take. For example, the draft resolution in blue reiterates the need for the CAR government to “continue improving” physical protection and management of weapons and ammunition, whereas the initial draft only stressed the need to ensure such protection and management. Among the revisions to the text ahead of it being placed in blue on 26 July, language was added “affirming that the key benchmarks constitute a solid cooperation framework” on security sector reform (SSR), the DDRR process, and the management of weapons and ammunition in the CAR. This proposal, which Mexico suggested, apparently aims to signal that the benchmarks remain important objectives, in case the arms embargo is lifted in the future before the benchmarks are achieved.
Following last year’s renewal of the sanctions regime, Russia placed a hold on the appointment of the CAR Panel of Experts. It was not until 18 April that the Secretary-General appointed three of the panel’s five members: the experts on humanitarian affairs, regional issues and arms. The Secretary-General appointed the fourth expert on natural resources and finance on 1 June. The armed groups expert was never appointed. This prevented the submission of the panel’s regular mid-term report. The panel’s final report was submitted last month and was considered by the 2127 Committee on 24 June.
*Post-script: On 29 July, the Council adopted resolution 2648, extending the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime for an additional year. Ten members voted in favour of the resolution, while five (China, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, and Russia) abstained. In their explanations of vote, China, Gabon, Kenya and Russia expressed their preference for a full lifting of the embargo (S/PV.9105).