Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (21 February), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). The expected briefers are Special Representative for the CAR and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) Valentine Rugwabiza and Chair of the CAR Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco).
Rugwabiza is expected to describe the latest developments in the CAR peace process based on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on MINUSCA, which was published on 16 February and covers developments since 13 October 2022 (S/2023/108). She may note the role of CAR Prime Minister Félix Moloua, who has continued to convene coordination meetings with the participation of relevant ministries, as well as regional and international partners, to review progress in 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. She may also mention the 6 December 2022 ceremony chaired by CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra which marked the dissolution of four armed groups that are signatory to the political agreement. However, there does not seem to be any movement in terms of engagement between the government and other armed groups, particularly the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), the main coalition of armed groups in the CAR, according to a 3 February mid-term report by the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
Some Council members may express concerns about the increasing political tensions in the CAR over the government’s attempt to change the constitution. In October 2022, Touadéra removed the president of the CAR Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan. This followed the court’s 23 September 2022 decision invalidating the government’s decision to establish a committee tasked with drafting a new constitution that would remove presidential term limits. The current constitution, adopted in 2016 following popular consultations, does not allow the president to run for a third term.
Opposition parties and civil society organisations have strongly criticised the government’s decision to remove Darlan and emphasised the need to respect the judiciary’s independence. Nevertheless, on 28 December 2022, the National Assembly (the lower house of the CAR parliament) adopted a bill proposed by the government to organise a referendum on the amendment of the constitution. The referendum is expected to be held during 2023, although a timeline has yet to be specified. Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s efforts to engage with the government, opposition leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to encourage dialogue with the aim of addressing this issue. Council members may express disappointment over Darlan’s dismissal and underscore the need for the CAR authorities to respect the independence of state institutions.
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 since 1988. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the first round of local elections is set to take place on 16 July and the second round on 15 October. On 30 November 2022, the government pledged a $4.5 million contribution to a basket fund managed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to support voter registration and the reopening of local branches of the National Electoral Authority. However, Rugwabiza may note that there is still a budget shortfall of $6.5 million and may call on international partners to mobilise resources to fill this funding gap. She might also highlight the Integrated Electoral Security Plan signed on 14 February between the government and MINUSCA to facilitate the necessary security measures for holding local elections.
The deteriorating security situation in the country is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The CAR armed forces (FACA) and the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company, have been trying to secure mining sites by pushing armed groups towards the country’s borders. FACA has suffered considerable losses in recent fighting with the CPC in the northern part of the country, close to the border with Chad and Sudan, according to a CAR government spokesperson quoted by media reports on 17 February. The increasing military activities of armed groups along the border areas have stoked tensions between the CAR and Chad. The Secretary-General’s report describes the challenges that the two countries are facing in controlling their shared border, which have at times resulted in incidents between their security forces. On 9 February, Angolan President João Lourenço hosted Touadéra and Transitional Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Déby in Luanda. Touadéra and Déby reportedly agreed to work together to address security issues between their countries.
Some members may also raise concerns about challenges to MINUSCA’s work, including continued violations of the status of forces agreement (SOFA) and the obstruction of the mission’s freedom of movement, including through restrictions on night flights. These were major areas of concern during Council members’ negotiations on resolution 2659 of 14 November 2022, which most recently renewed MINUSCA’s mandate. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the CAR government has lifted the night flight restrictions since December 2022 but suspended the use of all drones in the country, except those operated by the CAR defence and security forces. This appears to be related to a 21 January drone attack against the position of what the report describes as “other security personnel”, an apparent reference to the Wagner Group. The CAR Panel of Experts indicated in its 3 February mid-term report that armed groups may be using drones. Council members may welcome the lifting of night flight restrictions but may continue to express concern about other restrictions on the mission’s freedom of movement, including MINUSCA’s drone operations, as well as the unauthorised search of properties, and the arrest and detention of UN personnel, which have increased in the reporting period.
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. The period covered by the Secretary-General’s report saw an increase in intercommunal violence and the targeting of Fulani and Muslim communities. The report notes that data collected by MINUSCA between 2 October 2022 and 1 February verified 380 such incidents which affected 1,619 victims. This represents a five percent decrease in violations but a four percent increase in victims compared to the previous reporting period. Armed groups were responsible for 35 percent of the violations, while violations by state agents account for 58 percent of the documented cases. MINUSCA documented 351 violations by state agents and 61 by “other security personnel”. Some Council members have been expressing particular concern about the Wagner Group’s presence in the country and its alleged involvement in human rights abuses. They may reiterate such concerns at tomorrow’s meeting. The US may refer to its recent decision to sanction “individuals and entities linked to Russia’s para-military Wagner Group and its head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin”.
Some Council members are likely to reiterate the need to promote accountability and justice in the CAR. In this regard, Rugwabiza may mention the 27 December 2022 decision by the CAR national assembly to extend for five years the mandate of the Special Criminal Court (SCC)—a hybrid court set up in 2015 with the support of the UN to investigate, prosecute and try serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the CAR. 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.
Hilale is expected to describe the work of the CAR PBC configuration. Among other matters, he may highlight the configuration’s meeting held in September 2022 to discuss local elections in CAR. Hilale may emphasise the significance of these elections to consolidating the democratic space in the country and call on international partners to mobilise resources to address the budget constraints facing the National Electoral Authority. Hilale may also mention the written advice submitted by the configuration to the Council on MINUSCA’s mandate renewal in November 2022.