posted on Mon 8 Apr 2019 6:00 PM
Central African Republic: Adoption of a Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (9 April), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement establishing benchmarks for suspending or progressively lifting arms embargo measures on the government of the Central African Republic (CAR). This is in accordance with resolution 2454 of 31 January in which the Council expressed its intention to establish, no later than 30 April, “clear and well identified key benchmarks regarding the reform of the security sector, the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process, and the management of weapons and ammunition, that could serve in guiding the Security Council to review the arms embargo measures on the Government of the CAR”.

The draft presidential statement welcomes the CAR authorities’ “significant efforts” to advance security sector reform and acknowledges their urgent need “to train and equip…their defence and security forces to be able to respond proportionately to threats to the security of all citizens in the CAR.” It also “welcomes the signing of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation” in the CAR on 6 February.

The draft states that the Council is ready to review the arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR through suspension or progressive lifting of these measures, in the light of progress achieved on key benchmarks. Among other things, the benchmarks include:

  • progress on the effective implementation of the National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (PNDDRR), and in particular the “socioeconomic reintegration of former members of armed groups and the integration of vetted former members of armed groups into all uniformed personnel”;
  • the establishment by the government of a planning document on the needs of the authorities in terms of weapons and ammunition storage facilities and the training and vetting of government forces to manage weapons, ammunition and facilities;
  • finalisation by the government of “an arms registration and management protocol for CAR defence and security forces” and the establishment of a system of individual accountability for the loss, theft or diversion of weapons;
  • completion by the government of the operationalisation of a national commission on the struggle against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons; and
  • the creation by the government “of a protocol for collection and destruction or transfer to the CAR Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces of surplus, unregistered or illicitly held weapons and ammunition seized by the CAR authorities.”

The Council also recalls in the draft presidential statement that these benchmarks may “promote greater understanding amongst the CAR authorities of the arms embargo, in particular its exemption provisions and contribute to closer collaboration between CAR authorities and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127…”.

The final report of the Panel of Experts of 14 December 2018 (S/2018/1119) said 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. 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 the CAR’s long-standing request that the arms embargo on the country be lifted.

The discussion of benchmarks was difficult in the negotiations over resolution 2454 on the renewal of the sanctions regime. During those negotiations, France, the penholder, circulated a draft resolution setting benchmarks for reviewing the arms embargo on the CAR government. 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 to establish that the CAR would be capable of managing the weapons. Council members did not question France’s premise regarding the need to establish benchmarks. However, two permanent members took the view that they would need more time for their governments to review proposed changes and to negotiate appropriate benchmarks to assess the lifting of the arms embargo. As a consequence of this matter—and a lack of agreement on others—the Council ultimately decided to pursue a much shorter draft resolution, with the issue of benchmarks to be agreed by 30 April.

In contrast, it appears that the negotiations on the text to be adopted tomorrow went smoothly. Ultimately, there were only small adjustments made to the proposed benchmarks during the negotiations. It seems that these changes were to make the language more precise, rather than to reflect substantive differences of view. The benchmarks are designed to provide a clear road map for the government to follow, against which progress can be determined by the Council.

The presidential statement to be adopted tomorrow was initially circulated as a draft resolution. However, some members expressed a preference for a presidential statement, maintaining that this was a sufficient outcome given the content of the document. This approach was acceptable to other Council members, and a draft presidential statement was thus pursued.

The adoption tomorrow comes well in advance of the 30 April deadline. It seems that this was done at least in part in recognition that the CAR authorities are required to report to the Sanctions Committee by 30 June on progress achieved “regarding the reform of the security sector, the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation process, and the management of weapons and ammunition,” according to resolution 2454. This early adoption gives the CAR government some extra time to consider its efforts, in light of the newly developed benchmarks.

The Council is expected to review the arms embargo measures on the government of the CAR by 30 September based on an assessment of progress on the benchmarks that the Secretary-General is mandated to conduct by 31 July.