posted on Mon 27 Apr 2015 3:32 PM
Renewal of CAR Mission Mandate

Tomorrow (28 April), the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution, renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 30 April 2016.

The draft resolution renews the mission’s mandate at its current levels of 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police personnel, which include the additional troops recently authorised by the Council in resolution 2212 of 26 March, in accordance with the request of the Secretary-General (S/2015/85). It calls on members states to provide troops and police with adequate capabilities and equipment to MINUSCA and on the Secretary-General to accelerate the recruitment of qualified staff for the force (as of March, MINUSCA’s deployment was at roughly 75 percent).

MINUSCA’s mandate remains largely unchanged by the draft resolution. The mission’s main tasks continue to be protection of civilians, humanitarian assistance, support for the transitional political process and the protection of human rights. This reflects the position of Council members that a year after the establishment of MINUSCA, and roughly seven months after its 15 September deployment, progress has been limited and the situation on the ground remains volatile. In line with these concerns, the draft resolution expresses concern over the dire humanitarian situation, condemns gross violations of human rights and calls on the Central African Republic (CAR) to uphold the freedom of movement of all people in the CAR without discrimination. This is a reference to the fact that several Muslim communities are still confined to enclaves and are forbidden to move out of their neighborhoods by the government.

One new element in the mandate is the prioritisation of certain tasks. While resolution 2149 of last year differentiated between priority and additional tasks, the draft resolution presented by France creates three tiers: immediate, essential and additional tasks. The draft then stipulates that the Secretary-General should reflect this prioritisation in the deployment and allocation of resources to the mission. Council members were generally receptive to spelling out the most urgent priorities, though some questions remained on what that would entail in practice, in particular with respect to attention given to non-immediate priorities.

The draft resolution reiterates the Council’s support for the transitional political process through the active leadership of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and in support of the transitional president of the CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza. In doing so, Council members are implicitly rejecting ongoing talks between some rebel leaders taking place outside of this transitional process in Nairobi, which have been already been rejected by ECCAS and Samba-Penza.

Concerning elections, the draft resolution retains MINUSCA’s mandate to provide electoral support, and calls on the CAR authorities to accelerate preparations, “as a matter of urgency”, for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. The resolution notes that these are “currently” scheduled for August, thus implicitly agreeing with the comments made by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye, in consultations on 14 April 2015, that given the current state of preparations, it is highly realistic to assume that the elections may have to be postponed.

The draft resolution renews MINUSCA’s authorisation to adopt urgent temporary measures, “on an exceptional basis” and at the formal request of the CAR, to arrest and detain individuals in order to fight impunity and maintain law and order. In accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary-General in his latest MINUSCA report (S/2015/227), the draft includes a specific provision mandating MINUSCA to assist the CAR in establishing a national Special Criminal Court (SCC). The SCC was put into law by the National Transitional Council on 22 April to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the CAR since 2003, and is to be composed of both local and international judges and staff. Accordingly, the draft resolution calls on the CAR to swiftly implement the law.

Experts met twice last week to negotiate the French text. While the negotiations were not highly contentious, there were some areas of disagreement. China, with the support of Russia, wanted to limit the proposed language on the role of MINUSCA with respect to forcefully seizing and destroying weapons and ammunitions. In their view, the mission’s mandate is to support the management and security of the CAR’s disarmament efforts once a strategy is put in place. France, with the support of the US and the UK, favoured explicit language for MINUSCA to forcefully disarm armed groups as part of its protection of civilians mandate. Several countries, while agreeing on the need to seize and destroy illegal stockpiles of munitions as an urgent priority of the mission, found the P3 proposal too robust. The compromise text suggested calls on MINUSCA to actively seize and destroy weapons of armed elements, without a specific reference to the use of force.

Another area of disagreement related to the French proposed text for the Secretariat to operationalise the use of “specialized police teams” in its operations. (Resolution 2185 of 20 November 2014 requested the Secretariat to explore the use of “specialized police teams”, e.g. forensic units or investigators of gender-based crimes, for police capacity-building). It seems Chile and Russia were cautious about including this request as the Secretary-General is due to report on this issue only at the end of 2016. A proposed compromise is to have the Secretariat “continue to explore, on the basis of need”, the use of such units.

In connection with MINUSCA’s task to promote and protect human rights, on the initiative of Nigeria, several members were supportive of specific language in the resolution that emphasised the protection of people with disabilities, in addition to the language on violations against women and children. Some Council members, including the US and the UK, were against extended language on this issue, as they took the view that it would necessitate expanded language on many other vulnerable groups. The compromise was to include a brief reference to have the Secretary-General include in his reporting on MINSUCA language on preventing abuses against people with disabilities.

One further issue of contention between Council members that was not brought up during negotiations, but discussed bilaterally between two permanent members before and during the negotiations, was the issue of funding for the SCC. While one of these members wanted the SCC to be funded by the peacekeeping budget, the other objected to that notion. As a middle ground, the current draft allows MINUSCA to provide capacity building in specific areas in order to facilitate the work of the SCC. MINUSCA may also use its existing resources to take measures that ensure the security of magistrates of the court, victims and witnesses.