Why African countries want arms embargo on Bangui lifted
Saturday February 26 2022
African members of the UN Security Council are calling for the lifting of an arms embargo on the Central Africa Republic, warning that the ban was perpetuating the country’s insecurity.
Kenya, Ghana and Gabon told the UN Security Council this week that the CAR’s vulnerable government needs to control its arms purchases, and restrictions should instead be imposed on the armed groups.
Michel Xavier Biang, Gabon’s Permanent Representative to the UN told the Council on behalf of the African countries, also known as A3, that lifting of the almost 10-year old arms embargo in CAR will isolate the rebels.
“The A3 stresses the need to lift the embargo imposed on CAR by the UN Security Council to allow the country to build the required capacity of the armed forces, in order to enable them to carry out their constitutional mandate of defending the country more effectively,” he said during a briefing on the status of the UN Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the country, known by its French acronym, Minusca.
“The Central African state must be able to protect civilians and its territory. The Minusca peacekeeping mission is not meant to stay permanently in the CAR. Restricting the military capabilities of the legitimate authorities of the CAR is to condemn the country to impotence and make its instability chronic.”
The UNSC’s 15 members, first imposed an arms embargo on the CAR in 2013 as the muslim Seleka rebel group toppled President Francois Bozize. The coup led to revenge attacks from the christian armed groups led by the Anti-Balaka.
The arms embargo blocked all supplies of arms and materiel to CAR with exemptions granted only in situations allowed by the UN Sanctions Committee.
The Council has extended the ban annually although it is time limited.
When the ban was retained last year, the A3 opposed it and China abstained, citing a “disconnect’’ between the Council’s decision and the reality on the ground.
The bone of contention by the A3 is that the CAR government’s commitment to a ceasefire with rebels has been broken by the armed groups.
The CAR has planned a political dialogue in March, as well as held the first municipal elections in three decades later in September. But the threat of violence looms large.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), has endorsed efforts by the African Union by pushing for more support for President Faustin Archange Touadéra who has in the past also called for easier arms purchase conditions.
Last year, CAR protested the extension of the arms ban, saying the ban was not working since armed groups were still sourcing weapons easily.
“It is unacceptable to remain without reaction in the face of the sad spectacle of armed and terrorist groups freely acquiring increasingly sophisticated weapons and causing distress to the civilian population, whose exodus exacerbates humanitarian tensions,” said the A3 on Tuesday.
The armed groups have recently targeted civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. The A3 said there should be more “commitment from the international community to effectively cut off the supply chain to the rebel groups.”
The CAR under President Touadéra has struggled to settle down to governing the country since elections in December 2020, which some groups boycotted and immediately launched attacks on government installations and civilian areas.
The ICGLR has been midwifing peace there, and has praised President Touadera for declaring unilateral ceasefire in October 2021 and hailed progress in preparations for holding the republican dialogue.
The president has been forced to use foreign mercenaries as security guards, leading to controversy on whether the private armies are in fact fueling further conflict.
During the meeting, the UN envoy to the Central African Republic, Mankeur Ndiaye, reported progress towards peace and stability in the country, but said, “in CAR, progress is real, but challenges remain."
According to him, the role of Minusca remains essential to support the necessary adjustments to the peace process. The Security Council members encouraged politicians to "re-boost political dialogue" in order to achieve lasting peace in the country.
CAR was represented by Sylvie Baïpo Temon, the minister of Foreign Affairs.
Recently, the country adopted a joint roadmap of the ICGLR September 16, 2021. But the ceasefire decreed by President Touadéra in October 2021 was not heeded, leading to sporadic violence.