Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (19 October), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in 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/2022/762), which was issued on 13 October and covers developments since his report of 16 June.
Council members are likely to be interested in hearing about the status of the implementation of the roadmap adopted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in support of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR. During their last meeting on the CAR, which took place on 22 June, Council members welcomed the strategic review meeting that was held in Bangui on 4 June to take stock of the progress and challenges in the implementation of the political agreement and the roadmap and called on international partners to continue coordinating their roles in support of this effort.
The Secretary-General’s report describes the four coordination meetings that have taken place since then under the chairmanship of CAR Prime Minister Félix Moloua, with a view to accelerating progress in the implementation of the priorities outlined in the roadmap. In this context, Rugwabiza may mention the meeting on 14 September between the government and representatives of 11 signatory armed groups of the political agreement to discuss their possible dissolution. She might also refer to progress on the national Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR) programme. Council members are likely to welcome the renewed engagement on implementation of the political agreement and the ICGLR roadmap, as well as to encourage continued progress on the DDRR programme.
Rugwabiza is expected to provide updates following the republican dialogue that was convened by the CAR government in March. One of the proposals at the dialogue was a constitutional amendment to remove the presidential two-term limit, which was rejected by opposition parties and civil society groups. However, the government has taken steps to advance this, including by organising public demonstrations on 6 August in support of amending the constitution through a referendum. On 26 August, the government adopted a decree setting up a committee to draft a new constitution. The current constitution, adopted in 2016 following popular consultations, does not allow the president to run for a third term.
Some Council members may express concern about the constitutional review process and its potential effects on the country’s political stability. In a 29 August press release, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, said that “[a]ny attempt to act outside the rule of law or in defiance of the will of the people will sow the seeds of violence that can jeopardise the implementation of the recommendations of the Republican Dialogue, the Peace Agreement of 6 February 2019 and the Luanda Joint Roadmap”. On 23 September, the CAR Constitutional Court declared the review process unconstitutional and invalidated the decree establishing the drafting committee.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members might also be interested in the ongoing preparations to hold local elections in the CAR for the first time in decades. Rugwabiza may note the government’s expressed commitment to hold these elections in 2023 and describe MINUSCA’s support to the revision of the electoral code, the updating of the electoral map and the Integrated Plan for the Security of Elections (PISE), as well as the civic education and awareness campaign for local elections. The National Elections Authority’s revised budget estimate for organising the local election stands at $14 million. However, it remains underfunded, except for limited contributions from MINUSCA and UNDP. On 9 September, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s CAR Configuration convened an ambassadorial-level meeting, to review the progress in the preparation and organisation of the local elections, as well as to mobilise political, technical and financial support for the electoral process. At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may call for enhanced international support to the organisation of local elections in the CAR.
The precarious security situation in the country is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report refers to the increasing military activities by armed groups to regain control of some mining sites. The fuel crisis in the country has limited the operations of the CAR armed forces (FACA) in these areas and armed groups are trying to take advantage of the situation. Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s efforts to enhance its robust posture to reduce the activities of armed groups and its joint patrols with the FACA to protect civilians. The use of explosive devices continues to pose threats not only to civilians but also to the safety and security of peacekeepers. In a 5 October statement, Council members strongly condemned a 3 October attack against a MINUSCA convoy with explosive devices, which left three peacekeepers from Bangladesh dead and one wounded. The persistent insecurity has also contributed to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation. In this regard, Rugwabiza may highlight the effects of rising commodity prices and fuel shortages on MINUSCA’s activities and the work of humanitarian actors.
Council members may express concern about the continued violations of the status of forces agreement (SOFA). The Secretary-General’s report notes a reduction in SOFA violations during the reporting period but mentions the seizure of contingent-owned equipment and the obstruction of freedom of movement, including through restrictions on night flights, as matters of continued concern. Members may welcome the gradual improvement in the relationship between MINUSCA and the host country and the reduction in SOFA violations. They may, however, call on the government to improve the mission’s freedom of movement and remove restrictions on night flights.
Several Council members are expected to raise the issue of human rights violations and abuses being committed by different state and non-state actors in the CAR. Data collected by MINUSCA between 2 June and 1 October shows a significant increase in violations (90.2 percent), according to the Secretary-General’s report. Armed groups are responsible for 44.3 percent of the violations, while violations by state agents account for 45 percent of the documented cases. Members may reference two reports which were issued on 25 July by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in the CAR, based on investigative work by MINUSCA’s Human Rights Division. The first report, which focuses on a December 2021 attack in the village of Boyo, determines that FACA and pro-government militias carried out the attack with support from private military companies. The second report documents instances of conflict-related sexual violence committed in the period between December 2020 and early March 2022 by armed groups affiliated with the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC).
Members are likely to underscore the need to promote accountability and justice. In this regard, Rugwabiza may mention that the Bangui and Bouar courts of appeal held criminal sessions from 29 April to 21 June and from 20 June to 15 July, marking the first time they have done so since February 2020. She might also refer to the work of the Special Criminal Court (SCC)—a hybrid court composed of national and international judges with the authority to investigate, prosecute and try serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the CAR—which has started its deliberations in August after having completed the hearings of its first trial. Some Council members may express their continued support for the work of the national courts and the SCC in their promotion of transitional justice and the fight against impunity in the CAR.
Looking ahead, the Security Council is expected to renew MINUSCA’s mandate before its 15 November expiry. The Secretary-General recommended in his report a one-year extension maintaining the mission’s current authorised strength of 15,760 personnel. He also underscored the need to enhance MINUSCA’s mobility to enable the mission to implement its mandate effectively and called on troop- and police-contributing countries and other partners to provide support in this regard.