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Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (21 February), the Security Council will hold an open briefing and closed consultations on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). 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 is the anticipated briefer.

Rugwabiza is expected to describe the latest developments in the CAR based on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on MINUSCA, which was circulated to Council members on 16 February and covers developments since 16 October 2023 (S/2024/170). She may focus on the political situation in the country following the promulgation of a new constitution on 30 August 2023. The Secretary-General’s report notes that CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has proposed dialogue initiatives with political opposition and armed group leaders. Some of these actors expressed willingness to participate in the proposed dialogue, while others declined, among other matters, because of their reluctance to legitimise the new constitution.

The Secretary-General’s report indicates increasing concerns over the shrinking political space in the country following measures taken against opposition leaders. In this regard, it mentions the arrest of opposition parliament member Ephrem Dominique Yandocka because of his alleged involvement in a coup plot—an accusation that his party, Initiative pour une transformation par l’action, has rejected. The report also refers to the cabinet reshuffle on 4 January, which saw the appointment of several new ministers, and notes concerns expressed by opposition parties, which view the reshuffle as rewarding those who played a key role in the Republican Dialogue in March 2022 that paved the way to the constitutional referendum in July 2023. In this context, Rugwabiza may note tomorrow that MINUSCA has continued to use its good offices role with the aim of promoting inclusive dialogue and advancing the peace process in the CAR.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Rugwabiza is likely to describe ongoing efforts to facilitate the implementation of the 2019 Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR. The Secretary-General’s report mentions the government’s engagement with armed group leaders based in Chad in November 2023 to encourage them to join the peace process. It also elaborates on MINUSCA’s role in organising dialogue in the various prefectures among community leaders and armed group members to support local-level peace efforts and to facilitate the free movement of people and goods. Rugwabiza may speak about preparations for local elections and MINUSCA’s advocacy to promote women’s meaningful participation in the electoral process. The first round of local elections is scheduled for 13 October and the second round for 26 January 2025, but a budget shortfall remains a major challenge. In this regard, Rugwabiza might reiterate tomorrow the UN’s appeal to bilateral and international partners to provide financial support to facilitate this process.

Another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting is the difficult security conditions in the CAR. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the security situation in the country remained volatile with the start of the dry season in November 2023. It says that while the number of security incidents has decreased compared to the previous reporting period, armed groups have maintained their presence in the country’s northeast, northwest, and southeast and have continued to attack civilians and the CAR armed forces (FACA). The report describes armed clashes around mining sites between FACA and “other security personnel”—a term used by the UN to refer to the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company—on the one hand, and other armed groups, including those affiliated with the leading rebel coalition known as the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), on the other. The report outlines the difficult security landscape in the CAR that continues to affect both civilians and international personnel in the country. This includes the targeting of civilians and the displacement of thousands of people, the targeting of minority communities in the context of intercommunal violence, continued threats posed by explosive ordnance, the kidnapping of international mine workers, attacks against humanitarian workers, and obstructions to humanitarian access observed during the reporting period.

Rugwabiza may elaborate on MINUSCA’s continued efforts to enhance its robust posture, including by conducting joint patrols with the FACA, in order to deter the activities of armed groups with the aim of protecting civilians and humanitarian workers as well as facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance. She might highlight the challenge posed to MINUSCA by unidentified drones that have flown over its bases in several locations, forcing the mission to strengthen security measures. Rugwabiza might also describe MINUSCA’s support to the CAR government in expanding state authority and reforming its security sector through the training of its military personnel. She may also welcome the finalisation of the government’s ten-year action plan to operationalise the national border management policy.

At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members are likely to express concern about human rights violations and abuses in the CAR. The period covered by the Secretary-General’s report saw a 30 percent increase in such violations and abuses, including grave violations against children and conflict-related sexual violence, largely committed by armed groups, particularly those affiliated with the CPC, and other unidentified perpetrators. Rugwabiza might note that Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten visited the CAR between 13 and 17 November 2023 and held discussions with the country’s authorities on preventing conflict-related sexual violence. She may also describe MINUSCA’s ongoing efforts to prevent grave violations against children, including their recruitment and use. (The six grave violations, as determined by the Security Council, are child recruitment and use; killing and maiming; rape and other forms of sexual violence; attacks on schools and hospitals; abductions; and the denial of humanitarian access.)

The human rights situation in the CAR has been a divisive issue in the Council, in part because some members have been critical of the Wagner Group’s alleged involvement in human rights abuses in the country. One contentious issue during the negotiations on resolution 2709 of 15 November 2023, which most recently expanded MINUSCA’s mandate, was the fact that the annual report on the human rights situation in the CAR, which is produced by MINUSCA’s human rights division, was not released in time for the mandate renewal negotiations. Resolution 2709 therefore requests that the next report be available before the next mandate renewal negotiations in November.

The implementation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has been another controversial issue in the Council. Four SOFA violations, including the obstruction of entry and confiscation of passports of some UN contractors, were recorded during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, compared with three in the previous reporting period. At tomorrow’s meeting, Rugwabiza is likely to explain MINUSCA’s continued efforts to resolve these issues in consultation with the host government.

The Secretary-General’s report notes a new circular issued by the CAR government on 22 December 2023, “revoking standing procedures on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the Central African territory and reinforcing controls on them, including suspending their use and prohibiting night flights, effectively grounding MINUSCA’s unmanned aerial vehicles”. Tomorrow, some Council members may express concern about the new circular, and call on the CAR authorities to lift these restrictions and to take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety, security, and freedom of movement of MINUSCA’s personnel with unhindered and immediate access throughout the country.

Some Council members are likely to continue stressing the need to ensure accountability and justice in the CAR. In this regard, they may welcome some of the latest developments described in the Secretary-General’s report, including the resumption of criminal hearings by the Bangui Court Martial after a two-year hiatus. The Special Criminal Court —a hybrid court composed of national and international judges with the authority to investigate, prosecute, and try serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the CAR—also launched the trial of its second case, which relates to ten individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2020.

Another issue of interest for Council members is the work of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee. Russia had put a hold on the appointment of the panel members and only lifted it in the last week of December 2023. On 1 February, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee received a briefing from the new panel members appointed on 4 January, who presented their tentative work plan, which includes planned visits to the CAR and the region. They will only have less than six months to submit their final report in July, when the 2127 CAR sanctions regime is set for an extension. During the negotiations on MINUSCA’s mandate renewal in November 2023, China and Russia 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. However, other Council members argued that this issue should be discussed in July.

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