Central African Republic: Yesterday’s Vote on the Extension of the Sanctions Regime*
Yesterday (27 July), the Security Council adopted resolution 2693, extending the sanctions measures on the Central African Republic (CAR) until 31 July 2024 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2024. Thirteen members voted in favour and two abstained (China and Russia). The draft text was authored by France, the penholder on the CAR.
France circulated a zero draft of the resolution on 18 July and convened one round of expert-level negotiations on 20 July. After Council members submitted their comments, the penholder circulated a revised text on Monday (24 July) and placed it under silence procedure until Tuesday morning (25 July). The Council’s A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) and China broke silence. At that point, Russia also circulated an alternative text. The penholder revised its draft text and placed it under a second silence procedure until Wednesday morning (26 July) at 10:00 am, which was extended until 11:00 am at the request of the A3. Nevertheless, the A3 broke silence again and proposed further changes to the text. The penholder accommodated those changes and then placed the text in blue, to be voted on yesterday afternoon (27 July). Russia did not place its alternative draft text in blue.
The CAR government has been calling for the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the country under the 2127 CAR sanctions regime. The AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) have expressed support for this request, including most recently in communiqués issued on 13 June and 1 July, respectively. The CAR’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie, and Central Africans Abroad Sylvie Valérie Baïpo Temon reiterated her government’s request for the lifting of the arms embargo at the Council’s 20 June briefing on the CAR.
The A3, China, and Russia have expressed support for the CAR’s request, while other Council members have opposed this move, arguing that the arms embargo does not prevent the CAR government from acquiring weapons. Some of these members also point to the benchmarks set out in the Council’s 9 April 2019 presidential statement to guide the suspension or progressive lifting 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.
In an apparent attempt to address the CAR government’s concerns, the zero draft circulated by the penholder proposed the lifting of the notification requirement for “[s]upplies of weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, and provision of related assistance, to the CAR security forces, including state civilian law enforcement institutions, and intended solely for support of or use in the CAR process of SSR [Security Sector Reform]”. This proposal seems to mirror the Security Council’s decision in December 2022 to remove a similar notification requirement imposed on the Congolese government under the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime. (For more information, see our 19 December 2022 What’s in Blue story.) Therefore, the negotiations on the draft resolution were expected to be straightforward, but the CAR government was apparently not satisfied with the penholder’s proposal and insisted on the total lifting of the arms embargo. This entails removing the sanctions measures not only on the government but also on the armed groups, an issue that divided Council members and complicated the negotiations.
Before Council members began negotiating the zero draft circulated by the penholder, Temon sent a letter to the Security Council on 18 July reaffirming her country’s position and appealing to Council members for their support. Although France apparently consulted with the CAR authorities in Bangui about the extension of the sanctions regime, Temon denied in her letter that such consultations had taken place and described the zero draft text as a regressive step that did not acknowledge the CAR’s progress in implementing the benchmarks. Furthermore, Temon referred to the regional security dynamics, focusing on the escalation of violence in Sudan, and argued that the arms embargo has undermined the CAR’s ability to defend itself. She also complained about the draft text allegedly equating the legitimate CAR government with armed groups, which are equipping themselves “outrageously”, according to Temon.
Several Council members strongly opposed the CAR government’s request, apparently because of serious concerns about the possible proliferation of weapons, which could further exacerbate the security situation in the country. However, some of the Council members who supported the CAR government’s request maintained that the arms embargo has not effectively prevented armed groups from acquiring weapons. After the first round of negotiations, the penholder circulated a revised text proposing a compromise to lift the arms embargo on the CAR government. The revised text stated that “the arms embargo measures established by resolution 2127 (2013) and the notification requirements set out in paragraph 1 of resolution 2648 (2022) shall no longer apply to the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel and the provision of assistance, advice and training to the CAR security forces, including state civilian law enforcement institutions and intended solely for support of or use in the CAR process of security sector reform (SSR)”. The revised text retained all other sanctions measures, however, including the obligation for bilateral and multilateral partners to notify the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, except for deliveries to the CAR government. The A3 broke silence on this draft text, expressing their position that the lifting of the arms embargo should not be conditioned on support for the SSR process.
At the same time that China and the A3 broke silence, Russia presented an alternative text proposing the complete lifting of the arms embargo, in line with the CAR’s request. The Russian text also contained language which opens for discussion the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee. It seems that the panel’s final report, submitted on 18 May, was critical of Russia. Among other issues, the report says that the CAR authorities did not provide clarity on weapons and aircraft that were transferred from Russia without advance notification to the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee. It notes other cases in which advance notification was given on the transfer of Russian military vehicles that were then used in mining sites, contrary to what was stated in the notification.
The penholder made further revisions to its draft text and removed the SSR reference to accommodate the A3’s comments and placed the text under a second silence procedure. Apparently, the penholder was not willing to open discussion on the mandate of the Panel of Experts because it was not an issue raised during the negotiations. The A3 broke silence, followed by China and Russia. The A3 suggested the further restructuring of the text to separate operative paragraph 1, which lifts the arms embargo, from the rest of the paragraph that refers to retaining all other sanctions measures. They also proposed deleting the reference to paragraph 4 of resolution 2488 of 12 September 2019, which requires that all notification or exemption requests provide a detailed explanation of how the assistance supports the SSR process. Russia—who continued engaging on the penholder’s draft despite proposing an alternative draft—and China insisted on the need to reflect the CAR government’s request. The penholder again made further revisions to the draft text to address the concerns expressed by the A3 and placed it in blue.
While there were concerns ahead of yesterday’s vote that Russia might cast a veto to block the draft text authored by France, it did not do so. The fact that the A3 were comfortable with the penholder’s draft text in blue may have contributed to Russia’s decision. Temon attended yesterday’s vote and conveyed the CAR government’s dissatisfaction with the resolution, saying that the government’s request for the total lifting of the arms embargo was not fully accommodated.
*Post-script: On 27 July, the Security Council adopted resolution 2693 extending the sanctions measures on the Central African Republic (CAR) until 31 July 2024 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2024 with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia). The Council also lifted the arms embargo imposed on the CAR government, while maintaining all other sanctions measures, including the obligation for bilateral and multilateral partners to notify the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, except for deliveries to the CAR government.