UN eases arms embargo on Central African Republic

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FILE – The streets of Bangassou, Central African Republic, remain empty on February 13, 2021, as most residents fled when rebels attacked with heavy weapons on January 3. The UN Security Council voted on Friday July 29, 2022 to ease the arms embargo against the Central African Republic, a disappointment for its government, which called for a total lifting of the ban on the sale or transfer of arms. and ammunition. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant, File)

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The UN Security Council voted on Friday to relax the arms embargo against the Central African Republic, a disappointment for its government, which called for a total lifting of the ban on the sale or transfer of arms and of ammunition.

The vote was 10-0 with Russia, China and the three African council members who supported lifting the embargo abstaining.

Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, Foreign Minister of the Central African Republic, told the council after the vote that the government welcomed the first step towards an arms embargo on armed groups.

She also welcomed the end of restrictions on certain categories of weapons for government forces, but stressed that “this embargo is no longer justified”.

“The 2013 embargo is undeniably ineffective because it no longer provides specific solutions to the serious problems posed by the proliferation of weapons by extremists and rebels who themselves possess very many sophisticated weapons,” said Baïpo-Temon. .

The mineral-rich but impoverished Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-communal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced President François Bozizé out of office. Most Christian militias then retaliated, also targeting civilians on the streets. Thousands of people were killed and most Muslims in the capital fled in fear.

A peace accord between the government and 14 rebel groups was signed in February 2019, but violence erupted after the constitutional court rejected Bozizé’s candidacy for the presidency in December 2020. President Faustin Archange Touadera won a second mandate with 53% of the vote, but he continues to face opposition from a rebel coalition linked to Bozizé.

The government controls the capital, but much of the country is controlled by armed groups.

France drafted the resolution and engaged in long negotiations with Russia on maintaining the arms embargo in order to avoid a possible Russian veto.

France’s deputy political coordinator, Wadid Benaabou, said the aim of the arms embargo has always been to reduce the threat from armed groups.

He said the Security Council “has always been attentive” to the needs of the Central African government and that Friday’s resolution makes it even easier for its forces to obtain all types of weapons and ammunition.

“They have thus received more than 20,000 weapons and 29 million cartridges in recent years,” Benaabou said after the vote.

Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, said the resolution “is a positive step towards the full lifting of the arms embargo”. But he said Kenya voted to abstain because the resolution does not fully lift sanctions against the Central African government, a view backed by Ghana. and Gabon.

US Deputy Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis welcomed the extension of the arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze, saying these measures are aimed at promoting peace and stability in the CAR and In the region.

“On the arms embargo, the region is awash with weapons and it’s time to stem the tide unhindered,” DeLaurentis told the council after the vote. “If effectively implemented, this arms embargo will help silence the guns.”

He called on the Central African authorities to continue improving the physical protection and accountability of its weapons.

“The truth is that military actions alone will not solve CAR’s crises,” DeLaurentis said. “Good governance, credible security sector reform, transparent disarmament and reintegration, national dialogue, as well as justice and accountability are the most important steps towards peace.”