posted on Fri 31 Jan 2020 2:45 AM
Central African Republic Sanctions Regime Mandate Renewal

Today (31 January), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime until 31 July 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2020.

This is the first renewal of the CAR sanctions regime following the signing of the Political Peace Agreement in the CAR between the government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February 2019. Since then, there has been a notable decrease, compared to the previous year, in military confrontations between armed groups and CAR security forces and in human rights violations linked to the conflict. However, the implementation of the peace agreement remains limited. Many civilians continue to experience general insecurity as armed groups continue to violate the agreement in large numbers, including through violence against civilians, illegal taxation and obstruction of the deployment of state institutions and security forces. Against this backdrop, several Council members believe that the sanctions regime is key to the promotion of security in the CAR and that it can serve to pressure the parties to implement the peace agreement.

Negotiations on the resolution were difficult, with the main point of disagreement being the question of the further easing of the arms embargo on the CAR government. CAR government officials have been requesting for several years that the arms embargo on their armed forces be lifted. In 2019, wide consensus among Council members on the need to accommodate some of the CAR government’s concerns about the arms embargo resulted in the amendment of the regime in resolution 2488 of 12 September 2019. The resolution exempts, after notifying the CAR sanctions committee, supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended for humanitarian or protective use and supplies to the CAR security forces of weapons with a calibre of 14.5mm or less that are intended solely for the support of or use in the CAR security sector reform process. After the adoption of resolution 2488, China said in its explanation of vote that it supports the wishes of the government of the CAR  for the early lifting of the arms embargo. Russia expressed in its explanation of vote its intention to press for significant adjustments of the sanctions regime in January 2020.

Resolution 2488 also requested that the Secretary-General update the Security Council by 31 December 2019 on the progress achieved by the CAR authorities on the key benchmarks established in its presidential statement of 9 April 2019, such as the effective implementation of the National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, and the management of weapons and ammunition. In his report of 31 December 2019, the Secretary-General determined that the government of CAR made “some progress” on the arms embargo benchmarks, while emphasising the need for continued support by the Council and international and regional partners.

The negotiations on the renewal of the CAR sanctions regime demonstrated that Council members continue to diverge in their position regarding the further easing of the arms embargo on the CAR government. China and Russia take the view that the Council should go farther in amending the arms embargo towards its complete lifting. However, some Council members believe that there is no room for further adjustments at this point in light of the political and security situations in the country and the limited progress made to date on achieving the arms embargo benchmarks.

The draft resolution put under silence by the penholder, France, on 28 January did not contain any further easing of the arms embargo or make any changes to the travel ban and assets freeze imposed on the CAR. It referred to the provisions of previous resolutions on CAR sanctions, including resolution 2454 of 31 January 2019 (the last renewal of the CAR sanctions regime) and resolution 2488 , without enumerating them.

On 29 January, China and Russia broke the silence, maintaining that they cannot accept a resolution that does not contain a further easing of the embargo. Russia then proposed an alternative draft text which included additional exemptions for supplies of weapons to the CAR security forces and put it under silence on the same day. Several Council members broke silence on the Russian draft due to the provision of a substantial easing of the arms embargo, which they could not accept.

The draft resolution put in blue by the penholder late on 29 January enumerates the elements of resolution 2488, while adding a further easing of the embargo in what appears to be a compromise. The draft resolution in blue exempts, after notifying the CAR Sanctions committee, supplies to the CAR security forces of unarmed ground military vehicles and ground military vehicles mounted with weapons with a calibre of 14.5 mm or less that are intended solely for the support of or use in the CAR security sector reform process. This provision is an addition to the exemption contained in resolution 2488, which allowed for the supply to the CAR security forces of weapons with a calibre of 14.5 mm or less.  As a result of these changes, it seems that Russia has withdrawn its draft.

Another issue which came up during the negotiations was the question of the duration of the renewal of the CAR sanctions regime. In December 2020 and early 2021, the CAR is expected to hold presidential, legislative and local elections. Some Council members raised concerns that if the mandate is renewed for a period of one year, this might lead to a politicisation of the next mandate renewal as it would coincide with the run-up to the elections. Therefore, suggestions were made to either renew the mandate of the sanctions regime for a period of longer than 12 months–thus setting the mandate’s expiry after the conclusion of the elections—or for a period of six months. Several members objected to the latter proposal, fearing that if the negotiations on the next renewal of the sanctions regime take place ahead of the elections, there will be more pressure for the further easing of the arms embargo. They also felt that such a short period of time would not allow for the CAR government to make substantial progress on the implementation of the benchmarks enumerated by the Council as a precondition for a further lifting of the embargo.

The initial penholder draft contained a provision for the renewal of the mandate for a period of 14 months. During the course of negotiations, it was agreed to shorten the renewal to a period of six months, in spite of concerns raised by some members about such a short mandate. The final draft text in blue therefore renews the sanctions regime until 31 July 2020. It requests that the Secretary- General assess the progress achieved by the CAR authorities on the key benchmarks on the arms embargo no later than 30 June 2020. It further requests that the CAR authorities report by 30 June 2020 on progress made regarding the security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation process and management of weapons and ammunition.