posted on Wed 21 Feb 2018 2:34 PM
Central African Republic: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (22 February), the Security Council will receive a briefing on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), followed by consultations. The briefing will focus on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) and the work of the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee. Council members are considering issuing a press statement in the days following the meeting. Messages may include expressing support for the African-led reconciliation initiative and MINUSCA’s efforts on this front, and concern over the security situation in the country.

The Special Representative to the CAR and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s most recent MINUSCA report (S/2018/125). Other briefers will be the Chair of the CAR Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué (Côte d’Ivoire); the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission CAR configuration, Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco); the Special Representative of the AU to the CAR, Bédializoun Moussa Nebie; and the Director General of the EU Military Staff, Lieutenant General Esa Pulkkinen. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita is expected to participate in the consultations after the briefing.

This will be the first briefing on MINUSCA since the adoption of resolution 2387 (15 November 2017), which streamlined the mandate of MINUSCA in order to direct most resources towards identified priority tasks, which are the protection of civilians; good offices and support to the peace process; facilitating the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and the protection of UN personnel and equipment. The resolution authorised a troop increase of 900, but these have yet to be deployed.

Council members are likely to raise questions regarding developments on the political front and concerns over the dire security situation. The MINUSCA report notes that the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, led by the AU, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS,) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), held its first round of consultations with 14 rebel groups. However, the report observes that national reconciliation efforts continued to be hampered by cycles of sectarian violence involving different communities, including armed clashes between ex-Seleka armed groups as well as between ex-Seleka and anti-balaka armed groups and associated militias. In the absence of effective state authority in most parts of the country, armed groups and self-defence militia continue to prey on communities, compete for control over land and resources, and hinder aid delivery. Clashes have displaced a record number of civilians. By the end of 2017, a total of 1.24 million people, the highest number yet recorded, had been forcibly displaced, either as refugees or as internally displaced persons. In the midst of these developments, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, arrived in the CAR on 18 February to survey and raise awareness of the situation.

Another point of focus for Council members will be the conclusions of the independent special investigation appointed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix to look into attacks on civilians that occurred between 1 May and 31 August 2017. The investigation’s main findings were announced on 24 January, raising concerns over MINUSCA’s ability to effectively protect civilians. It found that while MINUSCA has a well-established protection of civilians strategy and functioning early warning mechanisms, these did not translate into preventive actions and there were deficiencies in civil-military-police planning and operations. Additionally, gaps were identified with regard to contingents’ training and understanding of protection of civilians. Council members have not received further information on the report and some may ask the Secretariat to share, at the very least, its executive summary.

The issue of MINUSCA’s support for deployment of the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA) will be of interest to Council members, several of which are concerned with the slow progress in the vetting of military personnel, military training and security sector reform. Resolution 2387 called on the Secretary-General to present to the Council by 15 May recommendations, benchmarks and timelines on MINUSCA’s support for the deployment for its consideration and possible approval. According to the Secretary-General’s recent MINUSCA report, there has been some progress in FACA training, as the EU Military Training Mission completed the training of a second battalion on 15 December 2017, and began training a third battalion in January. Council members will be interested to hearing about this progress, particularly from Pulkkinen, and details on MINUSCA’s cooperation with these newly trained battalions, ahead of the May report on this issue.

A further point of concern will be the recent attacks on UN personnel and facilities. The Secretary-General’s report states that UN premises and convoys were directly targeted on 13 occasions. There were 123 security incidents directly involving UN personnel, two peacekeepers lost their lives in hostile attacks, and 16 were injured in the past four months.

In his update on the work of the CAR Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Tanoh-Boutchoué may discuss the 26 January committee meeting during which the coordinator of the Panel of Experts summarised the findings of the Panel’s final report and countries in the region described their efforts to implement the sanctions regime. During the 26 January meeting, the coordinator described the high level of fighting in the CAR and noted that AU facilitators had met with armed groups in an effort to promote the political process. In addition to Committee (i.e. Council) members, the permanent representatives of the CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad took part in the meeting. According to a UN press release, Committee members and other participating states “called for joint efforts by regional States in countering illicit trafficking in natural resources by armed groups that caused instability in the Central African Republic and neighboring States”.

The Council adopted resolution 2399 on 30 January, which renewed the sanctions regime until 31 January 2019, and added an additional designation criterion, deciding that those who commit acts of incitement to violence, in particular on an ethnic or religious basis, and then engage in or provide support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the CAR, may also be sanctioned.