The Security Council today adopted a resolution extending for one year its arms embargo on the Central African Republic — as well as a travel ban and assets freeze imposed on certain individuals and entities, as designated by its sanctions committee — and renewing for 13 months the mandate of the Panel of Experts tasked with assisting that body.
Adopting resolution 2588 (2021) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by a vote of 14 in favour to none against with 1 abstention (China), the Council decided to extend until 31 July 2022 measures obliging all Member States to take steps to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel — as well as technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance related to military activities — to the Central African Republic, from or through their territory or by their nationals.
By the terms of the text, the Council laid out a range of measures for which those terms shall not apply, including the transfer of supplies, humanitarian and other assistance provided to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Central African Republic forces, French troops and others, as notified in advance to the sanctions committee. It also exempted the supply of weapons with a calibre of 14.5 millimetre or less, and of mortars with a calibre of 60 millimetres and 82 millimetres, as well as ammunition specially designed for such weapons.
The Council further decided to renew until 31 July 2022 the modalities of notification and exemption requests — as laid out in paragraph 4 of resolution 2488 (2019) — and extended until the same date its decision in paragraph 5 to prohibit the resale or transfer of arms or related lethal equipment sold or supplied to the Central African Republic security forces solely for their development. It renewed until 31 July 2022 measures laid out in paragraph 2 of resolution 2399 (2018), authoring all Member States to seize, register and dispose of items discovered, which are prohibited under the arms embargo.
In addition, the Council decided to renew until 31 July 2022 the travel ban and assets freeze set out in paragraphs 9, 14, and 16 to 19 of resolution 2399 (2018) and extended in resolution 2536 (2020). By the terms of those earlier texts, the organ had decided that Member States shall take measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of individuals designated by the sanctions committee. Member States shall also freeze all funds, financial assets and economic resources within their territories which are owned or controlled by those designated individuals or entities, or by individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction.
By other terms of today’s resolution, the Council decided to extend until 31 August 2022 the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the sanctions committee, as laid out in paragraphs 30 to 39 of resolution 2399 (2018) and extended by paragraph 6 of resolution 2536 (2020). It expressed its intention to review the Panel of Expert’s mandate and take appropriate action regarding its further extension no later than 31 July 2022 and requested the Secretary-General to re-establish the Panel — in consultation with the sanctions committee — drawing on the expertise of its current members.
The Council requested the Panel of Experts to provide it with a midterm report no later than 31 January 2022, a final report no later than 30 June 2022 and progress updates, as appropriate. It requested the Central African Republic authorities to report, by 15 June 2022, to the sanctions committee on the progress achieved in the areas of security sector reform; disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation; and the management of weapons and ammunition. In addition, it requested the Secretary-General to conduct, no later than 15 June 2022, an assessment on the progress achieved by the Central African Republic authorities on previously established benchmarks.
Members further affirmed that they will keep the situation in the Central African Republic under continuous review “and be prepared to review the appropriateness of the measures contained in this resolution”, at any time as may be necessary, in light of the country’s evolving security situation and its progress achieved.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of China said he abstained in light of significant progress made in the Central African Republic in recent months. General elections were held successfully, and the security situation continues to improve. Noting a “growing disconnect between the Council’s sanctions and the evolving situation on the ground”, he recalled that the sanctions were first imposed to help Bangui restore social order. Now, the measures are increasingly hampering such efforts and threaten the Central African Republic’s sovereignty. Against that backdrop, he said the draft resolution adopted today fails to respect Bangui’s wishes and did not fully take China’s concerns into account.
The representative of the United States welcomed the adoption, noting that the sanctions measures remain critical to maintaining peace and security in the Central African Republic. Stressing that there is no military solution to the conflict, he said durable peace and stability require commitment to good government, accountability and dialogue. More progress on credible security sector reform is needed, and it is crucial to ensure that the embargo does not put United Nations staff at risk. “Weapons brought into [the Central African Republic] must not be turned on United Nations peacekeepers or staff,” or used to harm civilians, he stressed. To that end, the authorities must cooperate fully with MINUSCA and support its protection of civilians’ mandate, he said, condemning any harassment of Mission personnel.
The representative of the United Kingdom also voiced support for the resolution, noting that the embargo’s objective is to prevent armed groups from accessing weaponry. However, her delegation would have preferred a technical rollover text, which would have been more appropriate at this point. She expressed regret that one or two Council members requested language on exemptions for mortars and urged the Government to ensure that training on those weapons and the risks they pose is in place. Voicing concern over reports of violence committed by armed groups and military contractors, she nevertheless welcomed progress made so far in delivering on the benchmarks established by the Council in 2019, which have not yet been fully met.
The representative of Norway said her delegation voted in favour of today’s resolution as it is not yet in favour of easing the Council’s arms embargo. As noted in a recent report of the Secretary-General, the Central African Republic authorities have made insufficient progress on the benchmarks set out by the Council. Meanwhile, the sanctions committee has to date approved all the exemptions requests submitted to it by the Government. She joined other speakers in expressing grave concern about recent reports of human rights violations and allegations of Status of Forces Agreement violations and called on the Government to hold the perpetrators of all such incidents to account.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation supported the resolution’s adoption, noting that the Council responded to the legitimate requests by the Central African Republic to ease the sanctions burden. He called the procedure for the supply of mortars for the country’s army “another step” to support Central Africans. Acknowledging that Bangui is calling for a complete lifting of the arms embargo, he said “they have every reason for this,” as the measure now complicates the rearmament of security forces, which bear the primary responsibility for security. However, armed groups replenish their arms through smuggling. Bangui must continue to meet its required benchmarks so that the Council has “every reason” to lift the sanctions, he stressed.
The representative of Kenya recalled that on 29 January and 20 May, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region held two summits — in Rwanda and Angola — to address the political and security crisis in the Central African Republic. The summits instructed the Presidents of Angola and Republic of Congo, as chairs of the Conference and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), to initiate contacts with Security Council to present their regional points of view on resolution of the conflict in the Central African Republic. The Council subsequently granted audience to the President of Angola, who participated in person in discussions on MINUSCA on 23 June. Also, the Permanent Mission of Congo read a message on behalf of the President of Congo.
He said the “overriding message” of the International Conference, ECCAS and the Central African Republic was for the Council to lift the arms embargo, allowing the Government to acquire suitable weapons for its security forces to counter armed groups. The country’s Ministry of Defence, through a letter to the sanctions committee this month, indicated its intention to have the embargo lifted, and sought to acquire 60-millimetre mortars. The letter also detailed the weapons possessed by armed groups, including mortars of 60 millimetres and as high as 120 millimetres. Kenya appreciates the compromise by the penholder and Council members, and views today’s resolution as an improvement from the proceeding one to allow the country’s forces to discharge their duties. It will continue to ensure that the voices of the Central African Republic, the International Conference and ECCAS are heard by the Council, he said, while calling on Bangui to redouble its efforts to achieve the benchmarks required to lift the embargo.