The United Nations Security Council on Thursday relaxed the arms embargo on the Central African Republic, allowing weaponry to flow to government forces, though Bangui still called the decision an “affront.”
The Council said the situation in the country “continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region” and extended the arms embargo — in place since the 2013 civil war — to July 31, 2024.
But the embargo would no longer apply to the “supply, sale, or transfer of arms and related materiel and the provision of assistance, advice and training to the CAR security forces.”
The measure, adopted by 13 votes in favor with Russia and China abstaining, underscored concern over arms trafficking to armed groups operating in the country.
Bangui meanwhile demanded a total lifting of the embargo.
“The text adopted today is a real affront to the Central African Republic,” Foreign Minister Sylvie Baipo Temon declared after the vote, accusing the Council of making an “amalgam” between her country and the armed groups.
The vote was “an iniquitous and arbitrary verdict that the Central African people cannot accept,” she added, thanking China and Russia for abstaining.
Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said the embargo had been ineffective in stopping fighters from acquiring weapons in the past 10 years.
“We’re convinced that given the current state of affairs in the CAR, the Security Council should have taken a decision to remove any forms of sanctions on the efforts of a sovereign state to stabilize and ensure its national security,” he said.
Despite its criticism, veto-wielding Russia did not block the adoption of the text, which also condemns “the use of mercenaries and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by them.”
No names were mentioned in the resolution but Russian paramilitary group Wagner has been accused by the EU and observers of rights violations in the Central African Republic.
The resolution also extends for a year sanctions including asset freezes and travels bans against some 15 individuals, including former president Francois Bozize.
One of the world’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic has been in the grip of civil war since 2013, when then-president Bozize was ousted by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, drawn largely from the Muslim minority.
The coup triggered a sectarian bloodbath between the Seleka and rival forces known as the anti-Balaka.