Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (20 June), the Security Council will hold an open briefing and closed consultations on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). The anticipated briefers are Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the CAR and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) Valentine Rugwabiza, UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye, and a civil society representative. Sylvie Baïpo Temon, the CAR’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad, is expected to represent her country at the meeting. Angola is expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure at tomorrow’s meeting.
The Council members which have signed on to the Shared Commitments on Women, Peace and Security (WPS)—Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the UAE, and the UK—will read a joint statement on the CAR prior to the meeting.
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 15 June and covers developments since 16 February (S/2023/442). She may refer to the ongoing efforts to decentralise the peace process through enhanced engagement at the local level. Rugwabiza may note the role that CAR Prime Minister Félix Moloua has been playing in this regard, including by chairing a 24 March meeting aimed at advancing implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR through strengthening coordination between national and prefectural monitoring mechanisms. She may also mention the ceremony held on 28 April marking the dissolution of two armed groups signatory to the 2019 agreement. Factions of three other signatory groups were also disbanded, in addition to four signatory armed groups that were dissolved in December 2022.
However, engagements between the government and non-signatory armed groups—particularly the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), the main coalition of rebel armed groups in the CAR—remain challenging. The CPC had been headquartered in Chad, and the group’s cross-border military activities have complicated the CAR-Chad relationship. Rugwabiza may refer to the 9 February meeting hosted by Angolan President and Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) João Lourenço in Luanda with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and Chad’s transitional President Mahamat Idriss Déby, in which the two leaders agreed to work together to address security issues between their countries. Following the Luanda meeting, former CAR president François Bozizé, who leads the CPC, relocated from Chad to Guinea-Bissau.
Despite these developments, the deteriorating security situation in the country remains a major concern. Rugwabiza is likely to describe the increasing military confrontations between CPC-affiliated armed groups and the CAR armed forces (FACA) which are supported by the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company. The final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, dated 18 May, describes recent trends causing CPC forces to retreat towards the tri-border area between the CAR, Chad, and Sudan. It also notes the increasing military activities by armed groups in the southeast part of the country bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan as well as in the western part near the border with Cameroon.
Rugwabiza may reiterate concerns about the threat that explosive ordnance poses both to civilians and to peacekeepers. The period covered by the Secretary-General’s report saw an 18 percent increase in explosive ordnance incidents and a 153 percent increase in related casualties compared with the previous reporting period. Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s efforts to enhance its robust posture to reduce the activities of armed groups and on its joint patrols with FACA to protect civilians and facilitate the extension of state authority across the country. She may refer to the UN’s recent decision to repatriate 60 Tanzanian peacekeepers following a preliminary investigation that reportedly found credible evidence that 11 members of a Tanzanian unit deployed in a temporary operating base in the western part of the country had allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse. On 9 June, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that Tanzanian authorities had been formally notified of the decision and have sent national investigation officers to the CAR. In September 2021, the UN repatriated a Gabonese contingent over similar allegations, in compliance with its zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
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—remain a serious concern for Council members. The Secretary-General’s report illustrates some improvements, as the mission recorded only four SOFA violations, compared to 17 during the previous reporting period. The CAR government had previously suspended the use of all drones in the country, except those operated by the CAR defence and security forces, following a 21 January drone attack against a Wagner Group base in the north-eastern town of Ndélé. According to the Secretary-General’s report, this restriction has been lifted. Nonetheless, Rugwabiza may emphasise tomorrow the significance of aerial assets in enhancing the mission’s situational awareness and ensuring the peace and security of peacekeepers.
Some Council members may reiterate concerns about the increasing political tensions in the CAR over the government’s attempt to change the constitution. The current constitution, adopted in 2016 following popular consultations, does not allow the president to run for a third term. On 30 May, Touadéra issued a decree stipulating that a referendum on a new constitution would be held on 30 July, a move which was opposed by various CAR political and civil society actors. In a 16 June press release, Yao Agbetse, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, noted that the proposals for constitutional reform have not yet been made public. He added that his consultations with various stakeholders revealed that the constitutional referendum raises “political, security, logistical, technical and financial concerns”.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members might be interested in receiving more information about ongoing preparations to hold local elections in the CAR for the first time since 1988. The first round of local elections was set to take place on 16 July and the second round on 15 October. However, the Secretary-General’s report indicates that preparations for local elections have been suspended until September. This was partly due to a lack of funds, which remains a major challenge in organising the elections. International partners seem reluctant to provide funding because of concerns that it might be used to organise the constitutional referendum. The Secretary-General’s report notes that the other reason for suspending efforts related to the local elections is preparations for the constitutional referendum in July. In his 16 June statement, Agbetse urged the CAR authorities “not to use the financial burden of the referendum as an excuse to compromise the local election process”.
The Secretary-General’s report mentions the conditions laid out by a coalition of opposition parties for participating in local elections, including calls for the president to abandon the holding of a constitutional referendum, to stop the harassment of opposition leaders, and to agree to a reform of the National Electoral Authority. Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s efforts to engage with the government, opposition leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to encourage them to address such issues through dialogue and to refrain from hate speech and incitement to violence.
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 a 12 percent increase in such violations and abuses compared with the previous reporting period. Armed groups were responsible for 33 percent of the violations, while state agents accounted for 54 percent of the documented cases. MINUSCA also recorded an increasing number of violations committed by state agents and “other security personnel”, an apparent reference to the Wagner Group. The Secretary-General’s report highlighted as a particular concern the continued targeting of Fulani and Muslim communities because of their alleged support for armed groups. Some Council members have been critical of the Wagner Group’s presence in the country and its alleged involvement in human rights abuses. The US, in particular, continues to point to the CAR government’s relationship with the Wagner Group as an obstacle to constructive engagement to restoring peace and stability in the country.
There may also be discussion at tomorrow’s meeting about the effects on the CAR of regional security dynamics. According to OCHA, the dire humanitarian situation in the country has been compounded by the outbreak of conflict in Sudan, which has led more than 13,800 people to seek refuge in the CAR.
Council members are expected soon to begin negotiating the extension of the sanctions measures imposed on the CAR, which expire at the end of July, and the renewal of the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, which expires on 31 August. At tomorrow’s meeting, Temon is likely to reiterate her country’s request for the lifting of the arms embargo. Adeoye might also express support for the CAR’s request, in line with a communiqué issued by the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) following its 13 June meeting on the situation in the CAR, which echoed the call “for the complete lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the CAR” to enable FACA to “effectively carry out their constitutional mandate of defending and protecting the country and its citizens”.