1. By its resolution 2387 (2017), the Security Council renewed the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2018 and requested that I report on its implementation every four months. The present report is submitted pursuant to that resolution.
II. Political situation
2. Signs of political progress were evident in the Central African Republic towards the end of 2017, including steps to strengthen State authority in the prefectures, enhance cooperation between national institutions and lay the foundation for a more comprehensive political process. This progress was marred, however, by continued violence in some parts of the country, as well as by chronic weaknesses in the functioning of State institutions, which undermined the effective deployment of the State’s architecture beyond Bangui. Incendiary rhetoric, ethnic stigmatization and religious manipulations continued to play an inflammatory role in national politics and the media, creating an environment in which the risk of inter-ethnic strife remained high.
3. From 24 to 27 October 2017, in my first visit as Secretary-General to a peacekeeping operation, I visited the Central African Republic to express my solidarity with the Central African people. I met with a broad range of stakeholders, including national and local authorities, representatives of civil society and the religious platform, among others. I also met with internally displaced people and humanitarian actors in Bangassou. I listened to a multitude of views on the political process, the security situation, national reconciliation and security sector reform. Throughout these discussions, it was clear that the absence of an accountable State presence in parts of the country compounded a complex mix of challenges, and presented a key obstacle to longer term reconciliation.
4. There was commendable progress in deploying the country’s new prefectural administration during the reporting period. By the end of 2017, 14 out of 16 prefects and 63 out of 71 sub-prefects were in post, with significant MINUSCA support. In certain cases, major armed group factions challenged their deployment, requiring extensive consultations to facilitate local acceptance. In this context, on 31 January 2018, the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) signalled its acceptance of prefects in Vakaga, Nana Grebizi and Bamingui-Bangoran prefectures. The Front populaire stated that its decision was made in response to calls by the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation and ahead of the second round of consultations of the panel of facilitators of the Initiative.
5. The Government and National Assembly established constructive working relations, as evidenced by the well-timed passing of the 2018 national budget. In October, the Assembly began holding sessions with the Prime Minister, allowing for regular dialogue and advancing good governance.
6. While the Government engaged in countrywide outreach, President Faustin Touadéra continued engaging with Governments of the subregion, including visits to Chad in October, for the summit of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, and the Sudan in December. In November, members of the National Assembly visited N’Djamena for the signing of a parliamentary cooperation agreement, and in December the Central African Republic hosted the eighth session of the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Support for the peace process
7. The panel of facilitators of the African Initiative conducted its first round of meetings with the 14 recognized armed groups in November and December, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of their positions. During the consultations, all armed groups expressed their acceptance of the country’s territorial integrity, respect for national institutions and recognition of the legitimacy of the Government. The United Nations system provided extensive support for the consultations. The panel plans to start a second round of consultations in mid-February.
8. Further to Security Council resolution 2387 (2017), MINUSCA focused on advancing local peace and dialogue initiatives in priority regions to help create a conducive environment for the implementation of the African Initiative. A ceasefire agreement and road map to end violence in Bria and in Haute-Kotto prefecture was signed on 19 December after weeks of consultations by the prefect, with the support of MINUSCA. The prefect established a follow-up committee to ensure the absence of weapons in the town and the removal of roadblocks. Anti-balaka associated militias and forces of the Retour, réclamations, réhabilitation (3R) armed group in Bouar signed a cessation of hostilities in December, facilitated by national authorities with support from MINUSCA and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. While positive, these local agreements have proven difficult to monitor, and implementation has been irregular, owing, in particular, to seasonal migration.
9. On 30 January 2018, within the context of a joint operation carried out by MINUSCA and the Central African armed forces, and following strong encouragement from the African Initiative and MINUSCA, the Revolution and Justice (RJ) group, led by former Minister Armel Sayo, agreed to fully disarm in accordance with the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, becoming the first armed group to voluntarily dissolve itself.
10. National reconciliation efforts continued to be hampered by cycles of sectarian violence involving different communities, including armed clashes between ex-Seleka armed groups as well between ex-Seleka and anti-balaka armed groups and associated militias. MINUSCA tailored its support to local peace and reconciliation initiatives in order to focus on challenges to the protection of civilians, access to basic social services and the restoration of State authority, including the prevention and reduction of violence. In November, local peace committees in various prefectures adopted reconciliation strategies for Bangassou, Bria and Zemio. The Ministry of Education, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and MINUSCA facilitated agreements with local communities that allowed authorities to hold school exams in Bangassou, Bria, Obo and Rafai. MINUSCA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported these efforts with targeted labour intensive public works projects that facilitated social cohesion and laid the groundwork for the return of displaced persons.
11. Nevertheless, with the onset of the dry season, mistrust and rivalries between communities were increasingly affected by cattle migration and the activities of armed groups attempting to control transhumance corridors. In response, MINUSCA mobilized local transhumance committees in Ouham and Ouham-Pendé prefectures to help prevent conflicts.