CAR

Central African Republic: Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/571)

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I. Introduction

1. By its resolution 2552 (2020), the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2021 and requested the Secretary-General to report on its implementation every four months. The present report provides an update on major developments in the Central African Republic since the previous report of the Secretary-General of 16 February 2021 (S/2021/146) and on the reinforcement of MINUSCA authorized by the Security Council in its resolution 2566 (2021).

II. Political situation

2. The President and legislature were inaugurated in accordance with constitutional timelines, preserving democratic order and institutional stability in the Central African Republic. Efforts were made to revitalize the peace process in a context of heightened political tension, ongoing military operations and a deepening humanitarian crisis.

Political developments

3. The President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was inaugurated on 30 March. In his inauguration address to the nation, the President set out his vision and priorities for his second term, which include good governance, human rights, security and civic participation; economic development and enhanced livelihood opportunities for the people; healing ethnic, religious, cultural and other divisions in society; and implementing the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, which he stressed remains the only valid political framework for peace and stability. While committing to political dialogue, the President also emphasized the importance of addressing impunity.

4. On 8 April, the Minister of Justice ad interim formally requested the President of the National Assembly to lift the parliamentary immunity of four opposition members of parliament in a criminal investigation against the former President, François Bozizé. Three are members of the political opposition Coalition de l’opposition démocratique 2020. All four have protested that the request was politically motivated. They were also subject to a travel ban, which was eventually lifted on 31 May. This situation exacerbated tensions between the Government and opposition political parties, which were already heightened by the ongoing state of emergency.

5. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic and Head of MINUSCA, in close coordination with international partners, continued to engage all national stakeholders to encourage an inclusive, constructive and credible political dialogue to promote national stability, in ac cordance with his good offices mandate. He has also publicly underscored the importance of addressing human rights violations, irrespective of the perpetrators. Since March, MINUSCA and its leadership have been targeted by a disinformation campaign waged t rough social and local media, including by actors close to the presidential political party. In addition to threats against United Nations personnel, there were accusations of electoral manipulation and collusion with armed groups, as well as calls and demonstrations for the withdrawal of MINUSCA.

6. On 19 April, the President launched national consultations with a variety of stakeholders, excluding armed groups affiliated with the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), to inform a potential “republican dialogue”. On 25 April, the Coalition de l’opposition démocratique 2020 declined to participate, claiming that the consultations were not inclusive and were therefore unlikely to achieve peace, national reconciliation and stability. On 10 June, the President announced the conclusion of the consultations and the imminent launch of the dialogue and requested the support of the international community.

7. The cohesion of CPC diminished owing to military setbacks and financial constraints, although it issued numerous communiqués setting out demands and conditions. Mr. Bozizé publicly formalized his leadership of CPC in a letter dated 18 February and subsequently appointed an interim president of the opposition Kwa Na Kwa political party that he previously led. Moderate CPC elements seeking to strengthen their political footing recommitted to the Political Agreement, distancing themselves from the coalition’s agenda and amplifying internal dissent. However, in Ouham Prefecture, Mr. Bozizé’s stronghold, national defence forces and bilaterally deployed and other security personnel increased targeted attacks against Muslim communities in areas previously dominated by the Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation (3R) and Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC) armed groups, owing to their perceived complicity with CPC.

8. The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Deputy Secretary-General for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response and the Managing Director for Africa of the European External Action Service conducted a joint visit to Bangui from 2 to 5 June, where they met with Mr. Touadéra, representatives of political parties, the President of the National Assembly, the political opposition and civil society representatives to encourage credible and inclusive political dialogue to revitalize the peace process. They also denounced disinformation campaigns and the unprecedented instances of violations of the status-of-forces agreement and obstructions targeting MINUSCA and putting its personnel at risk.

9. Two rounds of legislative elections were conducted during the reporting period. On 14 March, elections were convened in 118 constituencies, including 68 constituencies in which elections were not held in December 2020 owing to violence perpetrated by CPC. As part of the integrated security plan for the elections, 8,000 MINUSCA troops and nearly 2,000 members of the national defence forces deployed to secure priority constituencies; voting did not take place in three constituencies owing to CPC obstruction. National and international observer missions, including that of the African Union, expressed general satisfaction with the elections, noting improvements compared with the first round in December 2020. The National Electoral Authority announced that voter turnout was 66 per cent.

10. The Constitutional Court proclaimed the final results on 19 April. Sixty-nine candidates were elected; results were annulled in six constituencies. On 29 April, the court annulled results in one constituency owing to the successful candidate’s association with armed groups. A total of 90 members of parliament were elected, including 22 who had secured seats in the December election, meeting the constitutional threshold required to convene the inaugural session of the new legislature. The majority of elected representatives are from the ruling Mouvement des coeurs unis (23), followed by independents (20), Kwa Na Kwa (7), Mouvement de libération du peuple centrafricain (7) and 33 others spread across 15 parties.

11. The National Assembly held a two-week extraordinary session from 3 May to swear in its new members for a five-year term. On 5 May, Simplice Mathieu Sarandji of the Mouvement des coeurs unis was elected President of the National Assembly. The following day, the 14 members of its bureau were elected, including 8 from the presidential party.

12. On 23 May, legislative elections were held in the remaining 50 constituencies, with operational, logistical and security support provided by MINUSCA. The National Electoral Authority announced that voter turnout was 62 per cent. According to the provisional results, 44 candidates were elected, of whom 4 were women, bringing the total to 15 women, including 3 in the National Assembly bureau. The remaining seats will be contested during a last round, scheduled for 25 July.

13. On 10 June, the Prime Minister, Firmin Ngrébada, submitted his resignation and that of his Government to the President prior to the expected formation of a new government, following the presidential election. On 11 June, the President appointed Henri-Marie Dondra, the Minister of Finance and Budget since 2016, as Prime Minister.

Electoral preparations

14. The National Electoral Authority made efforts to implement lessons learned from the elections on 27 December to enhance preparedness for the legislative elections on 14 March and 23 May. MINUSCA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported the authority with good offices, electoral training materials, outreach and civic education initiatives, data processing, operational planning, and logistical and security support.

15. To facilitate participation in the elections on 23 May, the National Electoral Authority decided that voter cards could be collected up until election day; over 97 per cent of registered voters collected their voter cards. Following requests by women candidates to reinforce security, MINUSCA and national security forces deployed patrols to enhance their safety and reactivated the related hotline.

16. As at 1 June, the basket fund managed by UNDP for the presidential, legislative and local elections through 2022 had spent or committed $30.7 million of the $30.9 million disbursed by the Government and its international partners. Efforts are under way to bridge the funding gap for the local elections, estimated at $9 million.

17. MINUSCA and the United Nations country team continued to provide integrated electoral support for the preparation of local elections, last held in 1988 and tentatively planned for the first quarter of 2022. The National Electoral Authority has initiated consultations with political actors, institutions and civil society to secure support for those polls, including plans to update the voter list to include new voters, internally displaced persons, recently returned individuals and refugees.

Implementation of the Political Agreement

18. Efforts to reinvigorate the implementation of the Political Agreement continued despite ongoing armed confrontation with CPC. On 19 February, the President and the Prime Minister, Firmin Ngrébada, signed decrees rescinding the government appointments of 13 individuals, including 12 representatives of armed groups, as an apparent sanction of CPC members who had renounced the Agreement. Prefects subsequently excluded representatives of CPC-affiliated armed groups from participating in the Agreement’s implementation mechanisms, thereby weakening their effectiveness. On 11 May, local media reported the arrest of one of the dismissed ministers, a former anti-balaka leader.

19. On 16 April, the Executive Monitoring Committee of the Political Agreement adopted a report on the state of the Agreement’s implementation. Recommendations focused on improved national leadership and ownership, enhanced participation in national-level implementation mechanisms, sanctions for violations and the dissolution of armed groups. On that occasion, the Prime Minister announced that international partners must notify the Government of any contact with CPC-affiliated armed groups.

20. Succession issues arose following the death of the leader of 3R, Sidiki Abbas, on 25 March. The new self-proclaimed leader, “General” Bobbo, reaffirmed the affiliation of the group with CPC, while also seeking dialogue with the Government. On 5 April, the UPC leader, Ali Darassa, announced his intention to withdraw from CPC, which did not result in UPC re-engaging in the peace process. 3R, the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) and UPC also faced internal rifts as some elements defected owing to their refusal to participate in CPC.

21. Local-level implementation mechanisms helped to minimize tensions surrounding the elections on 14 March and 23 May, particularly in BaminguiBangoran, Haute-Kotto, Ouaka and Ouham-Pendé Prefectures. In Vakaga Prefecture, sessions of the implementation mechanisms to address local and cross-border security concerns resumed on 24 March for the first time since intercommunal tensions erupted in September 2019.

22. Some progress was made in operationalizing the special mixed security units. In February, monthly allowance payments resumed, prompting the return of elements who had abandoned the Paoua and Bouar camp sites in December 2020. The units resumed patrols in Paoua in February, although frequent reports of misconduct against the population risked undermining relations with local authorities and communities.
From March to May, engineering work at the training camp in Ndélé provided temporary employment for 48 recently demobilized individuals.

Local dialogue and reconciliation

23. The Ministry of Humanitarian Action and National Reconciliation, with support from MINUSCA and the United Nations country team, established local peace and reconciliation committees in Birao, Boali, Bossembélé, Bouar, Ndélé, Obo and Yaloké to prevent and resolve community conflicts, including the acceptance of returnees. In Birao, Bria and Ndélé, women-led peace initiatives were focused on reconciliation and income-generating activities, with the support of MINUSCA.

24. In Nana-Grébizi Prefecture, local authorities conducted a peace initiative between 23 March and 10 April to facilitate freedom of movement along the Ndometé-Mbrès axis, with the support of MINUSCA. The situation subsequently improved, owing to better relations between Christian and Muslim communities in the area.