Central African Republic: Vote on MINUSCA’s Mandate Renewal*
Tomorrow morning (15 November), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for another year, until 15 November 2024.
France, the penholder on the Central African Republic (CAR), circulated an initial draft to Council members on 2 November and convened one round of negotiations on 6 November. A revised text was then circulated to members on 8 November for comments until 9 November. Subsequently, a second revised text was placed under silence procedure until Friday afternoon (10 November). China and Russia broke silence on several aspects, including the role of “bilateral partners”, references to human rights, language related to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), as well as the mission’s drawdown and withdrawal. Following the silence break, the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) submitted similar comments. This necessitated a further revision of the text, which was then placed under a second silence procedure until Monday afternoon (13 November). Russia broke silence again, noting that a number of its concerns remained unaddressed. Nevertheless, the penholder placed the draft in blue on Monday afternoon after making technical adjustments, without making substantial changes to the text.
It appears that while this year’s mandate renewal negotiations were difficult, they were not as contentious as last year’s negotiations, which were overshadowed by several controversial issues, including SOFA violations. (For more information, see our 13 November 2022 What’s in Blue story.) It seems that the CAR’s bilateral engagement with some of the Council’s permanent members—including France—at the highest level has contributed to easing tensions this year. A French delegation went to Bangui ahead of the mandate renewal negotiations to listen to the views and concerns of the host country, which the penholder sought to accommodate in the draft text. In her statement at the Council’s latest meeting on the CAR, held on 26 October, CAR Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans Abroad Sylvie Valérie Baïpo Temon expressed her appreciation to France, saying that “[t]he turbulence of the past cannot make us forget Operation Sangaris, which managed to stem the bloodshed caused by the Séléka at the height of the crisis”. (Operation Sangaris was a French military deployment to the CAR from late 2013 until 2016.) In a departure from past practice, Temon did not send a letter to the Security Council outlining her country’s position ahead of this year’s mandate renewal negotiations. Instead, she outlined this position in her statement at the Council briefing and in bilateral consultations with some Council members.
It seems that the relationship between the mission and the host country has also improved significantly, although there are still reports of SOFA violations, as noted in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the CAR, dated 16 October. At the Council meeting, Temon argued that SOFA violations by the UN have led to a loss of revenue amounting to more than 150 billion CFA franc (approximately $245 million) and called for a review of the SOFA. It seems that this issue was raised during the negotiations, but the penholder explained that it would be difficult for the Council to address this matter in the context of the mandate renewal process since it relates to the implementation of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, which applies to all UN missions and offices across the world. Eventually, Council members agreed to include operative language in the draft resolution in blue that “encourages continued efforts to improve communication and coordination between CAR authorities and MINUSCA, including on the implementation of the Status of Forces Agreement and security coordination, and strengthen established coordination mechanisms”.
The draft resolution in blue renews MINUSCA’s mandate for a period of one year within its existing troop ceiling of 14,400 military personnel and 3,020 police personnel. During the negotiations, China, supported by Russia and the A3, apparently underscored the need to start considering troop reductions in light of the evolving security situation in the CAR. In this regard, the draft text in blue expresses the Council’s intention to keep the troop ceiling under continuous review, “taking into account progress on the security situation and the objective of transition and eventual drawdown of MINUSCA when conditions are met”. It also requests the Secretary-General to conduct, no later than 15 August 2024, an independent strategic review of MINUSCA through broad consultations with the CAR government and other relevant partners and to provide detailed recommendations regarding the mission’s possible reconfiguration and options for gradually adapting its civilian, police, and military components, as appropriate, including recommendations for a possible transition plan on the mission’s eventual drawdown and withdrawal.
The draft text in blue also retains the mission’s priority tasks, as most recently outlined in resolution 2659 of 14 November 2022 which renewed MINUSCA’s mandate. However, the task of “support for the extension of state authority, the deployment of security forces, and the preservation of territorial integrity” is now listed as the second priority task, in response to a request by the CAR government. The mission’s other priority tasks include the protection of civilians; good offices and support to the peace process and the 6 February 2019 Political Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic; and facilitation of the immediate, full, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance. The draft text in blue underlines “the progress made to restore State authority in all parts of the country, with MINUSCA’s assistance, to overcome the threats posed by armed groups”. It seems that Russia, supported by China and the A3, sought to mention the contribution to this progress of “bilateral partners”—an apparent reference to the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company. This proposal was unacceptable to other Council members, however, and it was not incorporated in the draft resolution in blue.
During the negotiations, the A3, supported by China and Russia, apparently advanced the host country’s position on the need to avoid equating armed groups with the CAR government, an issue that was also raised in past negotiations. It seems that these members argued that armed groups should be singled out for committing human rights violations and abuses. Other members, such as Switzerland, apparently cautioned that international humanitarian law and human rights law apply to all parties. It appears that the penholder accommodated the A3’s proposals in the draft text in blue, where applicable, while also retaining language calling on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law. It seems that there were also some disagreements about language on humanitarian principles relating to humanitarian emergency assistance, which the penholder resolved by using previously agreed language from other resolutions on Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
The issue of violations committed against children was also raised during the negotiations. The Secretary-General’s 16 October report indicates a 294 percent increase in the number of reported grave violations committed against children in the CAR. Switzerland, supported by Malta, apparently proposed to reinsert language from resolution 2659, which was not included in early drafts circulated by the penholder, that “calls for the full and immediate implementation of action plans [to end and prevent grave violations against children] signed by some armed groups and for other armed groups to sign such action plans”. This language was subsequently incorporated in the draft resolution in blue.
Another issue raised during the negotiations related to MINUSCA’s reporting on human rights. Malta, supported by several other members, proposed language requesting the mission to provide a report to the Security Council no later than 15 September 2024 on violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law committed in the CAR. MINUSCA’s human rights division releases an annual report on the human rights situation in the CAR, but last year’s report came out in December (after MINUSCA’s mandate renewal) and this year’s report has also yet to be released. The proposed language sought to ensure that the next report will be available before next year’s mandate renewal negotiations. China, Russia, and the A3 opposed this language, however. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue requests MINUSCA to report “annually and timely” on human rights, without mentioning a deadline for the presentation of the report.
Issues related to climate change also coloured the negotiations process. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), supported by Switzerland and several other members, proposed operative language highlighting the adverse effects of climate change in the CAR. This was opposed by Brazil, China, and the US, which apparently felt that the proposed operative paragraph would create a new task for the mission. Although bilateral discussions were held among concerned Council members to address this issue, no agreement could be reached. The penholder therefore proposed the deletion of the UAE-proposed language to achieve consensus, while retaining agreed language on climate change from resolution 2659 in the preambular section of the draft resolution in blue.
Recent negotiations on the renewal of UN peace missions in Africa have often featured discussions on sanctions. It appears that the Council created a precedent when it lifted the notification requirement imposed under the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime through the adoption of resolution 2667 of 20 December 2022. (For more information, see our 19 December 2022 What’s in Blue story.) During the MINUSCA mandate renewal negotiations, China and Russia apparently raised issues related to the 2127 CAR sanctions regime, alluding to the improved situation in the CAR and urging the Council to make adjustments accordingly. These members proposed language based on a 31 August 2022 presidential statement, which expressed the Council’s “readiness to review, adjust and terminate, when appropriate, its sanctions regimes taking into account the evolution of the situation on the ground and the need to minimize unintended adverse humanitarian effects”. Other Council members opposed the inclusion of this language in a draft text addressing MINUSCA’s mandate, arguing that this issue should be discussed in July 2024, when the 2127 CAR sanctions regime is set for an extension. Eventually, language on the adjustment or termination of the CAR sanctions regime was not included in the draft resolution in blue.
Post-script: On 15 November, the Security Council adopted resolution 2709, renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for another year, until 15 November 2024. Fourteen members voted in favour and one member abstained (Russia).