posted on Wed 30 Jan 2019 4:00 PM
Central African Republic Sanctions Regime Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (31 January), the Council is set to renew the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime until 31 January 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 28 February 2020.

The security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is dismal. Self-proclaimed self-defence groups, loosely connected to some members of the largely Christian anti-Balaka movement, have continued to operate in south-eastern CAR, targeting Muslims. Ex-Séléka armed factions, which are largely Muslim, have retained, if not strengthened, their positions and influence in their respective strongholds and continue to benefit from illicit taxation and illegal exploitation of natural resources. The government, led by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, remains largely unable to establish state authority outside a few urban areas, thus undermining the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the population.

The main issue that arose during the negotiations was that of the arms embargo currently imposed on the CAR. The CAR has been requesting for several years that the arms embargo on its armed forces be lifted. The final report of the Panel of Experts of 14 December 2018 (S/2018/1119) notes that while the CAR security forces are ill-equipped, armed groups have continued to acquire military equipment, much of which flows from Sudan. At the same time, the panel notes that the supply of lethal and non-lethal material to the CAR security forces is at its highest level in the past five years, through the current exemptions and notification regime, under the supervision of the Sanctions Committee. The panel concludes that careful monitoring and control over arms entering the country remains the best way to prevent further proliferation of weapons, especially given the government’s lack of stockpile management and its inability to manage appropriately a significant influx of arms.

The panel’s report says that calls to lift the arms embargo have increased in recent months, with the President and most government officials of the view that a total lifting of all restrictions on the rearmament and training of the CAR security forces is necessary to address the CAR’s security situation. Most recently, on 21 January, the sanctions committee met with the CAR Minister of Defence, Marie-Noëlle Koyara. Koyara briefed Council members on weapons storage facilities in the CAR and reiterated CAR’s long-standing request that the arms embargo on the country be lifted.

The P3 have taken the view that the situation in the CAR and that of its security forces, which remain mostly unvetted, does not allow for the lifting of the arms embargo. This is the position that the Council has taken in previous years. However, several Council members, including Russia and South Africa, are emphasising that CAR’s request should be respected.

The initial draft circulated by France, the penholder, was modeled on previous sanctions resolutions and was several pages long, setting out in detail exemptions to the arms embargo, benchmarks for reviewing the arms embargo on the CAR government, and criteria for targeted sanctions. The draft expressed a readiness to review the arms embargo measures on the CAR security forces in light of progress achieved against benchmarks. In the 25 January negotiations meeting, France explained that, as has been done when easing arms embargos on government forces in the past in other country situations, the Council must first establish benchmarks for lifting these measures on the CAR in order not to have a negative impact on the security situation and so that the CAR would be capable of managing the weapons. The benchmarks proposed in the draft included the implementation of a comprehensive strategy for the reintegration of former members of armed groups, as well as several measures relating to weapons and ammunition management and storage.

While Council members did not question France’s premise regarding the need to establish benchmarks, two permanent members took the view that they would need more than a few days for their governments to review proposed changes and to negotiate appropriate benchmarks to assess the lifting of the arms embargo. Initial comments from some Council members indicated that there was no consensus on the content of the benchmarks as well. As a consequence of this lack of agreement, the Council ultimately decided to pursue a much shorter draft resolution that was circulated to members on 28 January and is the basis for the resolution to be adopted tomorrow.

The draft in blue mainly refers back to the provisions of resolution 2399 of 30 January 2018 (the last renewal of the CAR sanctions regime) without enumerating them. Rather than describing benchmarks, the draft in blue expresses the Council’s intention to establish, no later than 30 April, clear and well-identified key benchmarks that could serve as a basis for the Council to review the arms embargo measures on the Government of the CAR. It further requests the Secretary-General, in close consultation with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the UN Mine Action Service and the Panel of Experts, to conduct, no later than 31 July, an assessment of progress. The Council will then review the arms embargo measures on the CAR security forces by 30 September. Furthermore, the CAR is no longer requested to report on the full implementation of the resolution but on “progress achieved” by 30 June, as was the case in the initial draft.

In addition to maintaining the arms embargo, the draft in blue maintains the imposition of an assets freeze and travel ban on individuals and entities as designated by the committee. The criteria for listing include, among others, providing support for armed groups or criminal networks through the illicit exploitation or trade of natural resources; violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, including separate criteria for gender-based violence and for recruiting or using children in armed conflict; and attacks against MINUSCA and other international forces as well humanitarian workers.

The first draft resolution circulated by France on 24 January proposed listing attacks against humanitarian workers as a separate criterion, in light of the increase in such attacks in 2018, which saw 396 incidents against humanitarian personnel and assets, compared to 337 incidents in 2017. However, Council members have opted to maintain the current regime, and the listing criteria will remain unchanged in the resolution to be adopted.