posted on Mon 27 Jul 2020 6:14 PM
Central African Republic: Sanctions Regime Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (28 July), the Security Council plans to hold in-person meetings in the ECOSOC chamber in order to, among other things, adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the Central Africa Republic (CAR) sanctions regime until 31 July 2021 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2021. In contrast to the renewal of the CAR sanctions last January, which saw Russia and China abstain, it appears that there is consensus on the draft resolution in blue.

Background on the Political and Security Situation

The renewal of the CAR sanctions regime comes in the context of a number of violent clashes throughout the spring and early summer in the CAR’s north-east and north-west, as well as tensions around presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for December 2020 and March 2021. According to the Panel of Experts’ 8 July report, “despite their nominal commitment to implement the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic…, armed groups continue to impede the restoration of State authority and engaged in many violations of the Agreement”. In response to the violence, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has undertaken a series of operations in recent months. On 17 May, the mission launched Operation “Igana siriri“ (“Bringing Peace” in the local Sango language) in Ndélé to help stabilise the situation. On 17 June, MINUSCA announced another operation—“Alo Londo”—in coordination with the Central African armed forces (FACA) to end violence against civilians in north-west CAR committed by the 3R (Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation) armed group.

At the time of writing, Operation Alo Londo continues, having recently intensified due to 3R activity in the area, including a 13 July attack on a MINUSCA convoy which killed a Rwandan peacekeeper and injured two others. This follows several attacks against MINUSCA in March. On 15 March, a MINUSCA peacekeeper was killed when elements of the anti-Balaka, one of the signatories to the peace agreement, launched an attack on the central CAR town of Grimari. In a separate incident on 15 March, another peacekeeper was injured when his patrol on the Ndélé-Birao axis came under attack by two armed groups. A civilian staff member of MINUSCA and CAR national was killed in an attack in the town of Ndélé on 7 March.

Political tensions and security concerns have also increased due to the presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for later this year and early 2021. In early April, deputies of the CAR National Assembly put forward a bill that would have allowed President Touadéra to remain in power if elections were to be delayed because of COVID-19. (At the time of the bill, CAR was reporting a low level of COVID-19 cases.) The Panel of Experts’ report from earlier this month concluded that this “controversial proposal” has “triggered a rise in tensions between the Government and the opposition”.

Negotiations on the CAR Sanctions Regime

Negotiations on the renewal of the sanctions regime appear to have been relatively straightforward, especially compared to negotiations this January on resolution 2507, which renewed the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2020.

During the January negotiations, two major points of contention arose: over the further easing of the arms embargo on the CAR government, and on the length of the mandate renewal. China and Russia took the view that the Council should go farther in amending the arms embargo towards its complete lifting, while a number of other Council members argued that there was little room for further adjustments in light of the political and security situations in the country and the limited progress that had been made on achieving the arms embargo benchmarks.

In January, the initial draft did not contain any easing of the arms embargo, compelling Russia to circulate its own draft resolution, which was later withdrawn. Ultimately, in what appeared to be a compromise solution, resolution 2507 contained language easing restrictions on 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 intended solely for the support of, or use in, the CAR security sector reform process. Nonetheless, China and Russia both abstained on resolution 2507, which was a departure from previous unanimous renewals of the sanctions regime.

In order to prevent a repeat of the contentious negotiations in January, the penholder’s initial draft included language further easing restrictions on the arms embargo, this time adding an exemption for supplies of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). During the negotiations, this language was refined to include specific text on “ammunition specially designed for such weapons [RPGs]”. This text allows for a further move toward the limited, step-by-step easing of the arms embargo—a compromise between Russia and China, which maintained their view that the arms embargo should be removed more expeditiously, and other Council members, which have concerns about the timing of easing the arms embargo.

Compromise on the easing of the arms embargo also allowed member states to overcome differences about the duration of the mandate. During negotiations in January on resolution 2507, the duration of the renewal of the CAR sanctions regime was a sticking point. Some Council members raised concerns then that if the mandate was renewed for a period of one year, the next mandate renewal might be overly politicised, coming in the run-up to the presidential, legislative and local elections of December 2020 and early 2021. While several options were mooted, the Council 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 current draft resolution in blue overcomes this issue by renewing the sanctions regime for a period of one year, which extends well beyond the December and January elections and any run-off that may occur.

Finally, the draft text in blue also requests the CAR authorities to report to the Committee by 15 June 2021on the progress achieved regarding security sector reform (SSR), the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) process; and the management of weapons and ammunition. It also requests that the Secretary-General assess the progress achieved by the CAR authorities on the key benchmarks for lifting the arms embargo no later than 15 June 2021.