CAR

Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic extended pursuant to Security Council resolution 2536 (2020) (S/2021/569)

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Letter dated 25 June 2021 from the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic extended pursuant to resolution 2536 (2020) addressed to the President of the Security Council

The members of the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic extended pursuant to resolution 2536 (2020) have the honour to transmit herewith, in accordance with paragraph 7 of resolution 2536 (2020), the final report on their work.

The attached report was provided to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic on 20 May 2021 and was considered by the Committee on 4 June 2021.

The Panel of Experts would appreciate it if the present letter and its annex were brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council.

(Signed) Romain Esmenjaud
Coordinator

(Signed) Zobel Behalal
Expert

(Signed) Fiona Mangan
Expert

(Signed) Anna Osborne
Expert

(Signed) Ilyas Oussedik
Expert

Summary

During the period under review, the Central African Republic entered a new crisis with renewed fighting across its territory. In December 2020, a new coalition was established, the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), comprising the most powerful armed groups in the country, namely, Mouvement patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC), Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation (3R), Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and the two anti-balaka branches (see S/2021/87, para. 15). CPC tried to prevent the holding of the elections of 27 December 2020, and its combatants engaged in military operations in an attempt to seize power. After failure by CPC to take Bangui on 13 January, the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic (FACA), with support from Russian instructors and Rwandan forces, carried out a counter-offensive, gradually seizing major towns from the rebels.

Civilians were disproportionally targeted throughout the crisis, as documented by the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic through field missions that covered most of the areas affected by fighting. Initially the target of exactions by CPC-affiliated combatants, civilians later became victims of international humanitarian law violations by FACA soldiers and Russian instructors.

Widespread international humanitarian law violations committed by CPC-affiliated groups included the forced recruitment of children, attacks on peacekeepers, cases of sexual violence and the looting of humanitarian organizations. Those exactions were committed, inter alia, in the Ouaka Prefecture by fighters under UPC leader Ali Darassa and in the Mbomou Prefecture by fighters under FPRC member Mahamat Salleh.

International humanitarian law violations by FACA soldiers and Russian instructors included cases of excessive use of force, indiscriminate killings, the occupation of schools and looting on a large scale, including of humanitarian organizations.

The present report contains detailed information on CPC, in which former President and sanctioned individual François Bozizé (CFi.001) played a central role. Claiming that he had received guarantees of significant support from external actors, which did not materialize, Bozizé was able to bring together ex-Séléka and anti-balaka factions. He operated as the coalition’s political and military leader, relying on his inner circle and collaborating closely with sanctioned individual and FPRC leader Nourredine Adam (CFi.002).

In spite of François Bozizé’s efforts to provide leadership to the coalition, CPC remained a loose network with each group operating largely independently, including with regard to armament acquisition and funding activities. While the Bozizé clan was able to secure some deliveries of weapons and ammunition from networks in Chad and the Sudan in violation of the arms embargo, each CPC-affiliated group relied on its reserves and traditional supply routes. Those groups continued to use mainly illegal taxation over economic activities to generate revenues. For example, 3R consolidated an illegal parallel system of taxation on mining activities, including those of several companies operating in the western part of the Central African Republic. The advances of FACA soldiers, Russian instructors and Rwandan forces disturbed trafficking routes and funding strategies used by CPC-affiliated groups without entirely disrupting them.

In response to the military threat posed by CPC to State institutions, the Government of the Central African Republic implemented several strategies. First, deliveries of materiel in support of State security forces were observed at a pace unprecedented since the establishment of the arms embargo in 2013, some of which were non-compliant and others in violation of the embargo. Second, FACA soldiers received bilateral support from Rwandan forces and Russian instructors. The latter, in particular, played a prominent role in military operations to push back CPC combatants. Third, some officials of the Central African Republic engaged in the parallel recruitment of armed group members operating within or in support of State security forces, potentially damaging the already fragile security sector reform.

In addition to the security crisis, the country also experienced a new peak of political tension as several candidates in the presidential election of 27 December 2020, including runner-up Anicet-Georges Dologuélé, refused to recognize the re-election of Faustin Archange Touadéra. In this context of politico-military crisis, regional and international partners pushed for a new dialogue, but divergent views emerged as to whether CPC leaders should participate. While regional mediators engaged with CPC leaders to facilitate a cessation of fighting, the President launched a “republican dialogue” focusing on facilitating reconciliation among political and civil society actors. Coupled with the aggressive communication strategies of the Government portraying neighbouring States as being responsible for the crisis, those diverging approaches resulted in strained diplomatic relations between the Central African Republic and some of its neighbours.

Lastly, the report addresses the continued prevalence of gold and diamond smuggling activities, depriving the country of significant resources and creating conditions favourable to the development of criminal networks thriving regardless of the political and security situation. It identifies actors involved in illegal activities, including companies and cooperatives underreporting their production. Cameroon is also described as one of the main trafficking hubs for natural resources from the Central African Republic.