posted on Wed 20 Feb 2019 6:03 PM
Central African Republic Briefing

The Council is expected to hold a briefing tomorrow (21 February) on the Central African Republic. Consultations are scheduled to follow, although they may be cancelled, especially if all members decide to make statements in the open chamber. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the departing Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and Ambassador Smaïl Chergui, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, are scheduled to brief. Other briefers will include Koen Vervaeke, the European External Action Service Managing Director (via video-teleconference); a representative of Côte d’Ivoire, which chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee; and Ambassador Omar Hilale (Morocco), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s CAR configuration.

The Global Peace Agreement in the Central African Republic, signed by the CAR government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February, is expected to be a major focus of the meeting. The briefers and Council members are expected to present their views on the agreement. The agreement was signed following negotiations in Khartoum that began on 24 January and were held under the auspices of the AU. It addresses justice and reconciliation, governance, and transitional security arrangements. It stipulates that the signatories will establish a commission to review justice issues and submit recommendations to the National Assembly, the Commission of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation and a follow-up mechanism established to oversee the agreement’s effective implementation. Under the agreement, mixed security units will be formed comprised of members of the armed groups and state security forces, and members of the former armed groups will be allowed to participate in the government.

Council members followed closely the developments in Khartoum and Bangui that resulted in the agreement. They were informed about the negotiations by Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix during a briefing under “any other business” in late January. On 7 February, Lacroix again briefed members on the CAR in consultations. He apparently said that ongoing, unified engagement from the international community—including the UN, the AU and member states in the region—was needed to increase the chances that the agreement would be implemented. He suggested that the widespread participation of national actors in implementing the agreement—including the government, armed groups, and civil society—was important. Lacroix further noted that some armed groups had already begun to participate in the government’s disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration program.

On 13 February, Council members issued a press statement drafted by France, the penholder on the CAR, that welcomed the signing of the peace agreement (SC/13701). They encouraged President Faustin Archange of the CAR “to cement and broaden national ownership” of the agreement. In this regard, they further welcomed the establishment of a follow-up mechanism to support the agreement’s implementation that includes “the participation of Central African Republic stakeholders, at the national and local level, and international partners” of the country. Members emphasised the “need to hold accountable those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.” They expressed their intention to follow the implementation of the agreement closely and reiterated their support for MINUSCA in helping to bring peace and stability to the CAR.

Tomorrow, members will most likely reiterate their support for the agreement and encourage the parties to work towards its implementation, especially given that several previous peace deals agreed since the country erupted into violence in 2013 have collapsed. The briefers, notably Onanga-Anyanga, may discuss how the Council and the UN more broadly can help support the agreement’s implementation. In this regard the role of MINUSCA could be addressed, including how it can use its good offices mandate to support dialogue among the signatories, promote inclusivity in government and the security sector through the different phases of the implementation process, and assist in the formation of mixed security units, among other things.

The question of accountability for serious crimes may be brought up in the meeting. These crimes will be dealt with by a commission to be formed under the agreement, but it is not clear what precise measures would be taken against guilty parties based on the commission’s recommendations. Tomorrow, some Council members may emphasise that this is an internal issue to be addressed by the CAR; others may register reservations about amnesties, unless there is a credible truth and reconciliation process widely supported by the CAR population.

The DDR process will most likely be discussed during the meeting. The process was initiated in December 2018, and members may want an update on how it has progressed in recent weeks, since Lacroix’s last briefing. In his recent report on the CAR, the Secretary-General stated that seeing former members of armed groups “disarming, returning to civilian life or joining the defence and security forces will reassure the population and build popular confidence in the peace process” (S/2019/147).

In his briefing, Onanga-Anyanga may also discuss the mission’s efforts to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian assistance. With regard to the protection of civilians, he may describe the mission’s efforts to provide physical protection to vulnerable populations, as well as how it has recently recruited 26 additional community liaison assistants—national staff that work with UN peacekeepers to facilitate their engagement with local communities—in an effort to strengthen the mission’s early warning capacities and situational awareness. Tomorrow’s briefing comes in the wake of an 18 February Médecins Sans Frontières report that maintains that MINUSCA failed to protect civilians from violence perpetrated by armed groups in Batangafo in late October-early November 2018.  It is not clear whether reference will be made to this report in the meeting.

It is further possible that Onanga-Anyanga will paint a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation, as more than 25 percent of the population has been displaced (either internally or as refugees living in neighboring countries) and 2.9 million people in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Vervaeke will most likely welcome the signing of the 6 February peace agreement and emphasise the need for the parties to carry out their responsibilities under its terms. In this regard, the European External Action Service spokesperson released a statement on the day the agreement was signed stating that: “It is now up to the different Central African parties to honor their commitments and to ensure that the implementation of the Agreement responds, in a sustainable and inclusive manner, to the expectations of the population, particularly with regard to security, justice and reconciliation, and development…”.  Vervaeke may further refer to the development assistance that the EU provides to the CAR and describe the recent activities of the EU Training Mission in the CAR in enhancing the capacity of the country’s armed forces.

Hilale will brief the Council on his visit to the CAR from 13-15 February. He was joined on the trip by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, and representatives of other member states serving on the PBC’s CAR configuration (China, France, Italy, the Republic of Korea, and Russia). The visit focused on peacebuilding efforts in the country; in this respect, Hilale is likely to discuss issues such as the CAR peace process (including implementation of the recently-signed agreement), justice reform, and planning for the 2020-2021 elections. In addressing these issues, he may recount his interactions with President Faustin Archange Touadera and the UN Country Team during the visit.

The Panel of Experts’ final report (S/2018/1119) will probably be mentioned during the briefing on the work of the CAR Sanctions Committee. The report, which was released in mid-December 2018, described how armed groups nominally committed to the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation (which provided the framework for the talks that resulted in the 6 February peace agreement) had continued to commit gross violations of human rights and had yet to take concrete steps towards disarmament.

The CAR Sanctions Committee’s 21 January and 29 January meetings might be discussed as well. During the 21 January meeting, the CAR Minister of Defence, Marie-Noëlle Koyar, briefed the committee on weapons storage facilities in the CAR and reiterated her government’s long-standing request that the arms embargo on the country be lifted. The 29 January meeting, which included the participation of representatives of neighbouring countries, focused on the Panel of Experts’ final report.

On 31 January, the Council renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 January 2020 in resolution 2454. Although it maintained the arms embargo on the CAR, the Council expressed its intention in the resolution to establish, no later than 30 April, clear and well-identified key benchmarks to serve as a basis for the Council to review by 30 September the arms embargo measures on the government. The Council is expected to undertake this review based on an assessment of the Secretary-General, due by 31 July, of progress made in meeting these benchmarks. In the near future, it seems that members will begin discussion of these benchmarks, which will focus on security sector reform; disarmament, demolisation, reintegration and repatriation; and the management of weapons and ammunition.

Tomorrow will most likely mark Onanga-Anyanga’s final briefing to the Council as Special Representative for the Central African Republic. He will be succeeded by Mankeur Ndiaye of Senegal, who was appointed by the Secretary-General earlier this month.