posted on THU 10 JAN 2013 5:21 PM
Briefing and Consultations on the Central African Republic

Tomorrow morning (Friday, 11 January), the Council will be briefed by Margaret Vogt, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) via videoconference from Libreville, Gabon. Vogt is set to brief members on recent developments following the uprising by the Seleka rebel alliance in the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as on peace talks taking place this week in Libreville. The Council will also be briefed (in person) by Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, on her first visit to the CAR in her present role, from 5-12 December 2012. The briefings will be followed by consultations.

Council members appear to be looking for information that would give them a clearer idea of the situation on the ground as well as at the peace talks in Libreville. (The Secretary-General’s report on BINUCA [S/2012/956] of 21 December 2012, which only covered developments prior to the Seleka offensive, does not reflect the current reality on the ground.) While the situation has attracted significant press interest, a number of conflicting reports have been published in the media. Some reports have stated that the CAR government and Seleka rebels agreed to a temporary ceasefire deal on Thursday, with President François Bozizé proposing a national unity government with the Seleka rebel coalition. It remains unclear if the rebels would accept such a unity government proposal.

In addition, Council members may also be interested in hearing Vogt’s views on the impact the recent developments may potentially have on BINUCA’s mandate, which expires on 31 January. (The Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mission’s mandate on 24 January.)

Most Council members agree that they will only be in a position to move ahead in the drafting and negotiations of a resolution once they receive an update from the UN official on the ground in the CAR. (This will be the first briefing by Vogt on the current crisis. Previous briefings in consultations were by Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on 19 December and by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on 3 January.)

No outcome to tomorrow’s briefing and consultations is anticipated. Council members have already issued three press statements (SC/10867, SC/10874, SC/10877) over a period of three weeks (19 and 27 December and 4 January, respectively), expressing their concern about the situation in the CAR, calling for a cessation of hostilities and for parties to engage in political dialogue to resolve the crisis. The 27 December statement also expressed support for the efforts undertaken by the Economic Community of the Central African States (ECCAS) to solve the crisis. It seems Council members may be awaiting the outcome of the peace talks before deciding to issue a presidential or press statement.

Humanitarian situation

Council members will also be interested in hearing Vogt’s and Bangura’s views on the humanitarian situation in the CAR, particularly following recent UN reports on humanitarian needs throughout the country and the recruitment of child soldiers. During her trip, Bangura was able to secure two agreements on conflict-related sexual violence and Council members may be also interested in follow-up to these agreements. It seems that the UK suggested that Bangura brief tomorrow to complement Vogt’s briefing. (Resolutions 1888 and 1960 invite the Special Representative to brief the Council as relevant, especially in regard to emerging patterns of attack.)

In remarks to the press following her December visit, Bangura signaled increasing concern about sexual and gender-based violence in the CAR as rebels advanced towards the capital Bangui. (In condemning the attacks by the Seleka rebel alliance, on 27 December the Secretary-General also appealed to all parties to refrain from all acts of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence. However, the 4 January Council press statement - while mentioning the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict - did not make specific reference to the women, peace and security agenda.

Council members generally agree that BINUCA’s mandate will need to be adjusted to address the current crisis, particularly its role in providing mediation support to political dialogue. There may also be some interest from Council members in strengthening protection language—particularly in relation to women and children—in BINUCA’s mandate if the situation on the ground appears to warrant it. (Earlier this month UNICEF warned of an increase in child soldier recruitment by rebel groups in the CAR in recent weeks.)

At press time it remained unclear if there might be a need for a technical rollover of resolution 2031 to allow time for the drafting and negotiations on the draft resolution renewing BINUCA’s mandate. It seems some Council members are beginning to feel the need for the Council to remain flexible in light of the fast moving situation so that it can react appropriately to allow the UN to respond to the changes on the ground.

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