Russia refused to vote for the renewal of the mandates of UN experts in South Sudan, DRC, Central African Republic and Mali. For Russian diplomats, the high number of Western experts responsible for monitoring the application of UN sanctions is counterproductive.
Russia is actively delaying the appointment of UN expert groups to monitor the application or violation of sanctions against South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali. According to Russian diplomats, Moscow is not satisfied with the number of experts appointed by Western countries. For Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya and his deputy Dmitry Polyanskiy, the reports of the experts in question are far from impartial.
Indeed, while Russia tries to extend its influence in Africa, by defying in particular the historic French influence in Mali and the CAR, Western experts of the UN multiply the damning reports against Moscow. And when it comes to Western countries, the tone of the United Nations remains too conciliatory, according to Russian diplomacy.
"Russia has indeed suspended the approval of a number of panels or individual experts," said Russia's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitri Polyanskiy, who deplores an imbalance in UN choices: “Unfortunately, we are still faced with a situation where the proposed composition of such panels is not geographically balanced. We have a predominance of representatives from Western countries ”, the diplomat wonders.
The end of the Russia-West consensus in Africa?
Since the UN General Assembly which took place in the fall of 2019, Russia has only used its veto on motions relating to Africa once. It was then, during the extraordinary summit in June 2021, prevent the sanctions imposed on Ethiopia. It must be said that Russia is generally more flexible at the UN when it comes to African countries. For example, Russian diplomacy supported the UN's plan to combat global warming at meetings last week.
Where the shoe pinches, on the side of Moscow, is when UN experts directly accuse Russia of crimes in Africa. Indeed, the Putin administration has misunderstood European accusations of alleged war crimes in the Central African Republic. It was not until the Angolan President, João Lourenço, first defended the unavoidable presence of the paramilitary group Wagner in the CAR, before the UN at the end of June. Then, it was the turn of the Central African President Faustin Archange Touadéra to speak at the UN platform, a week later, to denounce the “media propaganda” with which his country and its “international partners” must come to terms.
Similar situation in Libya, where the UN continues to demand the withdrawal of soldiers with whom Russia says it has no ties. Indeed, if the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed "Putin's cook", supposedly pulls the strings of the companies of the private security group, "he has no official position within the Federation or in this business. In reality, Wagner does not even exist ”, entrusts a senior diplomatic official to the Journal of Africa.
A thorn in Guterres' side
The mandates of the expert panel on South Sudan expired on July 1. For the DRC on August 1, for the CAR on August 31 and for Mali on September 30. Until the Russian representative at the UN accepts the nominations of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for new terms, the experts will not be able to start working. Guterres appoints groups of four to six independent experts for each of the UN sanctions regimes. These experts monitor and report violations to the Security Council, and recommend further action.
Each year, the Security Council renews the various sanctions regimes and the mandates of the groups. Guterres then writes a letter to the board telling it which experts he has appointed, and the 15-member body - by consensus - then approves his decision, allowing the panel to begin its work. Russia is also delaying the appointment of a replacement expert to the group tasked with monitoring sanctions against Somalia, diplomats told Reuters. The other experts on this panel can, however, continue to work until their mandate expires in mid-December.
Why is Russia delaying nominations?
There is also a reason linked to UN texts, explaining why Russia is beating its fist over Guterres' appointments. First of all, the committees, panels and individual experts in the countries concerned have developed the unfortunate habit of exceeding their mandates. But the UN is especially harming Russian interests: in CAR and South Sudan, the recommendations of UN experts of December 2020 and January 2021 led to an embargo on arms sales to the states concerned. The two countries representing the pre-square of Russian influence in Africa, it was normal for Moscow to react.
Earlier this year, CAR sanctions expert group accused Russian military instructors and Central African troops of summary executions, among others. The Kremlin has denied these allegations. "Some of the experts do not meet the requirements of impartiality, neutrality and independence", deplores Polyanskiy for whom "this affects the results of their work. This situation should be corrected ”.