Tomorrow (14 November), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the authorisation for French forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) to use all means to support MINUSCA at the request of the Secretary-General.
The priority tasks of the mission outlined in the draft resolution include the protection of civilians; good offices and support to the peace process, including the implementation of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, elections, national reconciliation, social cohesion and transitional justice; facilitating the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and the protection of the UN (referring to UN personnel, sites and equipment).
This is the first mandate renewal following the signing of the Political Peace Agreement in the CAR between the government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February. A new cabinet, which includes representation from all 14 armed groups, was formed on 22 March. This is the latest of several peace agreements signed between the government and armed groups in the CAR since the current crisis began in 2013, and it remains to be seen whether it will be fully implemented.
According to the Secretary-General’s 15 October MINUSCA report (S/2019/822), military confrontations between CAR security forces and MINUSCA have subsided, and human rights violations linked to the conflict have decreased. However, armed groups have been fighting each other and breaching the agreement through violence against civilians, illegal taxation, and obstructing the deployment of state institutions and security forces. The report notes that while the agreement has offered many civilians a reprieve from violence, the overall levels of violence remain worrisome, with women and children among the most affected. The Secretary-General recommends in his report that MINUSCA’s mandate to provide political, technical and operational support for the peace process, implementation of the agreement, and extension of state authority be reinforced “without caveats that could preclude MINUSCA from seeking resources commensurate to its tasks”. During Special Representative and head of MINUSCA Mankeur Ndiaye’s latest briefing to the Council on 25 October (S/PV.8646), he stressed that at the time of adopting MINUSCA’s current mandate, the extent of the logistical and technical means required for support to the implementation of the peace agreement could not be foreseen.
Accordingly, the draft resolution updates the language on MINUSCA’s support for the peace process in the CAR and calls on the mission to continue its political role in the peace process—including through political, technical and operational support to the implementation of the Peace Agreement—and to take active steps to support the CAR authorities in the creation of the conditions conducive to the full implementation of the Peace Agreement.
The latest Secretary-General’s report also stresses the importance of holding presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for 2020 and 2021 on time to consolidate peace and ensure stability. He welcomes the promulgation of the electoral code into law on 20 August, while noting with concern that preparations are already behind schedule for the voter registration that is due to begin in January 2020. Given the limited capacity of the CAR and the country’s security challenges, MINUSCA’s strong support is essential throughout the electoral process, according to the Secretary-General, who recommends that the Council authorise MINUSCA to provide operational, logistical and security support for the elections and coordinate other international support, as well as the necessary resources to perform these tasks. This echoes Ndiaye’s request in his 25 October briefing.
The draft resolution contains new language on electoral support, authorising MINUSCA to assist the CAR in the preparation and delivery of peaceful presidential, legislative and local elections by providing good offices, security, operational, logistical and, as appropriate, technical support, in particular to facilitate access to remote areas, and by coordinating international electoral assistance.
On the security front, against the backdrop of continuing security concerns and lack of significant progress in the deployment of CAR security forces to more areas of the country and the expansion of state authority, MINUSCA continues to be the primary provider of security in the country. The Secretary-General thus recommended in his report that MINUSCA’s authorised troop strength be maintained.
The draft resolution renews MINUSCA within its existing troop limits of 11,650 military personnel and 2,080 police personnel and continues to specify that its tasks include supporting the extension of state authority, the deployment of security forces, and the preservation of territorial integrity. In this context, the resolution incorporates the Secretary-General’s recommendation last year (S/2018/463) to provide enhanced planning and technical assistance as well as limited logistical support for the progressive redeployment of a limited number of Central African Armed Forces (FACA) units trained or certified by the EU Military Training Mission, and a limited number of vetted or trained Internal Security Forces (ISF) who are engaged in joint operations with MINUSCA. During last year’s negotiations on MINUSCA’s current mandate (resolution 2448), language was inserted that this planning, assistance and support is to be carried out “by reallocating approved resources”, due to the concerns of some members that these tasks would carry added expenditures. The current draft resolution retains this language.
While none of these elements seemed particularly controversial, differences between Council members arose regarding language about MINUSCA’s performance, notably how to address failures by particular contingents. In this connection, the Secretary-General’s report notes that 300 peacekeepers from a troop contributing country were repatriated following a 15 November 2018 attack against an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the vicinity of their operation in Alindao, Basse-Kotto prefecture that resulted in the deaths of at least 112 civilians, including 44 women and 19 children.
The US, in particular, wanted to include language calling on MINUSCA, in the context of its priority task of protecting civilians, to implement fully measures for holding underperforming contingents accountable, including by repatriating or replacing peacekeeping units that fail to act in the face of imminent threats of physical violence against civilians. Indonesia, the eighth largest troop contributing country among member states and a troop contributor to MINUSCA, objected to such language, which it viewed as singling out contingents for failures that have wider systemic reasons.
Calibrating the language on performance required compromises to accommodate the different positions. Language proposed by the US was retained but moved from the operative part on priority tasks to a more general section of the draft on mission effectiveness. This called on the Secretary-General to investigate and take immediate action “following significant performance failures to implement the protection of civilians strategy, to include the rotation, repatriation, or replacement or dismissal of the under-performing MINUSCA uniformed or civilian personnel, including mission leadership and mission support personnel”. This text was drawn from language already contained in resolution 2436 of 21 September 2018 on peacekeeping performance.
In addition, the language on monitoring the implementation of the UN zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse was strengthened, urging troop contributors to take appropriate preventative action, including by vetting all personnel before deployment and through timely investigations of allegations, as appropriate. In another addition to this year’s text, troop contributors are urged to hold perpetrators accountable and repatriate their units when there is credible evidence of widespread or systematic sexual exploitation and abuse by those units.
In an apparent effort to recognise the concerns of Indonesia and perhaps others, a new paragraph was added, recognising that the effective implementation of peacekeeping mandates “is contingent upon several critical factors, including well-defined, realistic, and achievable mandates, political will, leadership, performance and accountability at all levels, adequate resources, policy, planning, and operational guidelines, and training and equipment”.
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