Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (26 October), the Security Council will hold an open briefing and closed consultations on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). The anticipated briefer is 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. Sylvie Baïpo Temon, the CAR’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad, is expected to represent her country at 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 circulated to Council members on 14 October and covers developments since 15 June (S/2023/769). She may refer to the constitutional referendum held in the CAR on 30 July and the subsequent promulgation of a new constitution on 30 August. The Secretary-General’s report notes that opposition parties, civil society, and religious organisations have questioned the legitimacy of the referendum and criticised the content of the new constitution. Among other matters, the constitution ended presidential term limits, paving the way for CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to extend his tenure for a third term. Rugwabiza is likely to mention that MINUSCA did not provide support to the holding of the referendum, as this matter is not part of the mission’s mandate.
The mission is expected to assist the CAR authorities in organising local elections, pursuant to resolution 2659 of 14 November 2022, which renewed MINUSCA’s mandate. While preparations for local elections were put on hold because of the constitutional referendum, the government resumed preparations for the elections in September, with the first round of local elections now scheduled for 13 October 2024 and the second round for 26 January 2025, according to the Secretary-General’s report. The budget shortfall in organising local elections remains a challenge, however. The CAR government has committed to providing some financial support for local elections, which bilateral and international partners had apparently been reluctant to do because of concerns that the money might be used to organise the recent constitutional referendum.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Rugwabiza is likely to describe ongoing efforts to promote the peace process, particularly local-level engagements to facilitate implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR. She may mention her visit to various regions in the country together with CAR Prime Minister Félix Moloua to encourage active local participation in the peace process, including the involvement of women and youth in local peace and reconciliation committees and other local-level mechanisms for conflict prevention and mediation. On 23 October, the CAR government convened in Bangui a strategic review meeting to assess the 2019 agreement’s implementation, which brought together the agreement’s guarantor institutions as well as other bilateral, regional, and international partners. According to a communiqué issued at the meeting’s conclusion, the participants, among other matters, welcomed the dissolution of nine of the 14 armed groups signatory to the agreement and noted the progress in the disarmament and demobilisation of 4,884 ex-combatants, 1,112 of whom have been integrated into the defence and security forces, as well as the reintegration of 3,081 ex-combatants.
Rugwabiza might highlight MINUSCA’s continued support to the CAR in expanding state authority and facilitating the delivery of basic services in stabilised areas through the mobilisation of the UN Country Team and other partners. She may also mention the mission’s support to the implementation of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process (DDRR) and to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Secretary-General’s report describes the effects of the regional security dynamics, noting in this regard the influx of refugees and returnees to the CAR from Chad and Sudan, which has exacerbated the humanitarian situation. According to OCHA, more than 37,000 people from Chad and more than 20,000 people from Sudan, mostly women and children, have crossed into the CAR recently.
The security situation in the CAR remained volatile, according to the Secretary-General’s report, particularly in the eastern part of the country, where there is limited government security presence and armed groups target minority communities, causing massive displacement. The situation has been complicated by the launching of operations by “other security personnel”—a phrase used by the UN to refer to the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company—and their proxies against the main armed groups affiliated with the leading rebel coalition known as the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC). Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s continued efforts to enhance its robust posture to reduce the activities of armed groups and on the mission’s joint patrols with the CAR armed forces (FACA) to protect civilians.
Rugwabiza might also reference issues relating to human rights in her briefing. The Secretary-General’s report notes the development of a national human rights policy, the creation of the parliamentary network for human rights, and the appointment of a human rights focal point for FACA and the gendarmerie as encouraging steps. At tomorrow’s meeting, while Council members may welcome these developments, several are likely to express concern that different state and non-state actors in the CAR continue committing human rights violations and abuses. The period covered by the Secretary-General’s report saw a 17 percent increase in such violations and abuses compared with the previous reporting period. Armed groups were responsible for 32 percent of the violations, while state agents accounted for 51 percent of the documented cases. MINUSCA also recorded violations committed by “other non-state armed actors”, which account for 16 percent of the documented cases. 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 in restoring peace and stability in the country. Recent developments, including the reported direct supervision of the group by the Russian Ministry of Defence following the apparent death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August, may draw particular attention at tomorrow’s meeting.
Council members are expected soon to begin negotiating the renewal of MINUSCA’s mandate, which expires on 15 November. At tomorrow’s meeting, Temon is likely to emphasise the importance of MINUSCA’s support to the expansion of state authority, which is highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report. She may also reiterate her government’s request for a strategic review of the mission. In resolution 2659, the Council expressed its intention to request an independent strategic review of MINUSCA to assess the challenges to peace and security in the CAR and the constraints facing the mission’s operations. It has yet to request this review, however. (Five years have passed since the latest strategic review of MINUSCA.)
It seems that Council members appreciate Rugwabiza’s efforts to resolve difficult issues with the host country, including the implementation of the status of forces agreement (SOFA), which was a controversial matter during the negotiations on MINUSCA’s mandate renewal last year. Regarding the political situation, Council members may call on the CAR government to engage in dialogue with opposition parties and civil society representatives to address their concerns and build the necessary trust for holding local elections next year. Some Council members are likely to continue stressing the need to ensure accountability and justice. The 16 October decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to withdraw charges against former CAR government minister Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, citing a lack of evidence and available witnesses, may draw the attention of these members. Gawaka was accused of coordinating operations of the anti-Balaka, a mainly Christian group that fought against the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel group during the CAR civil war.
Several Council members remain concerned by the illegal exploitation of natural resources, which continues to fuel the conflict in the CAR. The most recent report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, which was submitted on 18 May, described fighting for control of gold mining sites involving the FACA, the Wagner Group, and armed groups. Russia has apparently put a hold on the appointment of the panel’s experts following the renewal of the panel’s mandate in July. This issue may complicate the upcoming negotiations on MINUSCA’s mandate renewal, although some Council members might argue that it should be raised in July 2024, when the panel’s mandate is up for renewal, rather than during the negotiations on the mission’s mandate.