April 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 March 2006
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action
The Council will discuss two forthcoming reports of the Secretary-General:

  • on foreign fighters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and
  • the regular report on the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

In response to the request that MONUC forcibly disarm foreign militias in the DRC made by the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission (comprised of the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi), the Council is likely to prefer political rather than military solutions and ones that call on regional neighbours to clarify that returnees will not suffer persecution.

The Council may also welcome the recent EU decision to provide standby reinforcement for MONUC.

Key Facts
Resolution 1649 requested a “comprehensive and integrated strategy for the disarmament, repatriation and resettlement of foreign combatants, incorporating military, political, economic and justice-related aspects.”

The challenges of security sector reform and the continued existence of Congolese militias, both of which observers consider the greatest threats to the transition, will be discussed separately in the regular report on MONUC.

The slow pace of MONUC and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in taking action against foreign fighters has led to the specific focus on that issue in the Council. Voluntary disarmament as practiced now is perceived to have reached its limits. Thousands of foreign combatants still plague eastern DRC, particularly the Rwandan rebel Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the Burundian rebel Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), and the Ugandan rebel groups known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU).

While their strength in the DRC has diminished, those groups still cause considerable harm. The main concern is the Rwandan rebel FDLR, estimated to have 8,000 to 10,000 fighters in the Kivus, but demands in Ituri have delayed MONUC’s planned shift in operations from Ituri to the Kivus.

Key Issues

  • One issue in addressing the FDLR problem is military capability. In addition, the conduct and discipline of the Congolese armed forces is poor and recent reports of abuse led to MONUC’s announcement that it would stop operating with the Congolese military should those practices continue.
  • Secondly, the incentives for foreign armed groups to disarm and repatriate are low. Combatants fear arrest back home and many have ties in the DRC, particularly through marriage. A major question is the fate of those who disarm but refuse to repatriate.

A related issue is that while many returning combatants may be granted domestic amnesty, some Rwandan rebel FDLR fighters may face charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Ugandan rebel LRA leadership is wanted by the International Criminal Court. This may lead to requests for some form of ongoing asylum in DRC, especially for those who have disarmed, have families in DRC and have a well-founded fear of persecution if they repatriate.

Despite the problems with voluntary disarmament, the report is not expected to support a role for MONUC in forcible disarmament. This is likely to be driven by capacity limitations. Instead, political solutions are likely to be favoured, particularly action by Kigali and Kampala in facilitating returns and clarifying that returnees will not be persecuted.

The Council may also touch upon the issue of further sanctions. Expansion of the list of violators for targeted sanctions, particularly under resolution 1649 (which allows the imposition of sanctions against commanders who refuse to disarm) is quite possible.

A further issue is the 27 January report by the Group of Experts, which noted that cooperation from Uganda and Rwanda remains unsatisfactory. The report recommended developing a system for tracing precious minerals produced in the DRC. It did not include the measures under resolution 1649, now expected to be raised in the midterm oral briefing in April.

With respect to the MONUC regular report, the main issue will be the conclusion of the transitional process in the DRC. In this regard, the recent EU decision to provide ready-reaction support capability to deter violence during the period of the June elections will be a welcome development. But a final decision is still pending from the German parliament (Germany is expected to lead the EU mission).

Council Dynamics
The Council has devoted considerable attention to foreign militias in the DRC. Members-especially the UK, Denmark, France and Tanzania-are concerned with stalled disarmament and repatriation in Ituri and the Kivus. Those members are likely to sponsor a resolution endorsing a more coordinated approach.

Despite the pressure from the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission, there is reluctance in the UN Secretariat and the Council to have MONUC forcibly disarm foreign militias. The case of the Ugandan rebel LRA may be an exception to this general rule as the wider regional dimension of the LRA issue in Sudan is giving greater cause for concern (as witnessed in resolution 1663 on 24 March). This issue will be addressed in the upcoming report on civilian protection in the Great Lakes.

In trying to encourage returns from the DRC, the Council will also be mindful of Uganda’s position on the need for a robust approach to the LRA presence in the DRC.

On sanctions, there is willingness in the Council to discuss practical measures such as traceability systems. The issue is not likely to raise divisions if limited to recommendations. Expansion of the targeted sanctions list is unclear, particularly since the Group of Experts’ reflections on resolution 1649 are still forthcoming.

Some of the options before the Council are:

  • broadening discussions to include security sector reform and including special mention of this in a resolution;
  • engaging Rwanda and Uganda more closely in creating conditions for the return of former combatants (including perhaps some direct consultations with them as the resolution is being formulated);
  • recommending measures to increase the traceability of precious minerals; and
  • creating a list of targeted individuals under resolution 1649.

Underlying Problems
A critical factor for the Council is the impending elections in June 2006. With the new constitution and electoral law, MONUC will focus on logistical support and security for the elections. The task involves tens of millions of voters with poor access in the country’s first free elections in decades.

Major concerns are election-motivated violence and Congolese militias in the east and Katanga. Some parties have recently organised demonstrations. While power-sharing agreements have secured spots for militia leaders in Kinshasa, recalcitrant field commanders are still operative.

Militias are required to disarm and either reintegrate into civilian life or enter security forces. Some commanders will be handed to the ICC for the violence in Ituri. Such was the case with Thomas Lubanga, who in March became the first-ever suspect in ICC custody when he was handed over by the Congolese government.

But security-sector reform is plagued by the lack of sufficient and regular pay for soldiers, parallel command structures and the competing agendas of donors. It is also subject to an unrealistically tight schedule and may result in ill-equipped, poorly trained and fragmented security institutions.

MONUC is involved in joint operations with the FARDC, but not in Katanga. Council decisions have not provided MONUC with reinforcements for Katanga for the elections, except for one battalion to be deployed in Kalemie. Potential deployments are:

  • One battalion from the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) under resolution 1650. A concept of operations was submitted to troop contributors (Jordan and Pakistan), but they are concerned about troop safety.
  • Stand-by forces from the EU, which requires Council authorisation. Germany is expected to lead the mission with 500 troops, plus 500 from France and more from other EU members. But reluctance in Germany has delayed a final decision. It is thus unclear whether a Secretary-General’s report recommending the deployments will be ready in April since a decision is still pending from the German parliament.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1653 (27 January 2006) requested a report on civilian protection in the Great Lakes.
  • S/RES/1650 (21 December 2005) permitted troop sharing between ONUB and MONUC.
  • S/RES/1649 (21 December 2005) strengthened sanctions in the DRC and requested the report on foreign armed groups.
  • S/RES/1565 (1 October 2004) authorised MONUC to use force against peace spoilers in the DRC.
  • S/RES/1291 (24 February 2000) added Chapter VII protective powers to MONUC.
  • S/RES/1279 (30 November 1999) established MONUC.
Selected Reports of Council Missions to the region
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2005/832 (28 December 2005) was the latest report on MONUC.
Selected Letter
  • S/2005/667 (25 October 2005) contained the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission’s request.
Selected Report of the DRC Group of Experts

Historical Background

9 March 2006

The electoral law was adopted.

17 March 2006 Thomas Lubanga was surrendered by Congolese authorities to the ICC for crimes in Ituri.
10 March 2006 Candidate registration for the June elections began.
17 February 2006 The new DRC constitution was promulgated.
27 January 2006 The Council held a ministerial-level debate on the Great Lakes.
23 January 2006 Eight UN peacekeepers were killed in the DRC in combat with the Ugandan rebel LRA.
21 December 2005 The Council strengthened the sanctions regime.
October 2005 The DRC and Uganda discussed the LRA issue under the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission.
September 2005 LRA elements entered the DRC. Ugandan President Museveni threatened to intervene and Kinshasa set a deadline for all foreign groups to disarm.
July 2003 The Council imposed an arms embargo in the DRC.
December 2002 The Global and All Inclusive Agreement was signed.
April 2002 The Sun City Agreement was signed between some of the Congolese warring parties.
January 2001 Joseph Kabila was sworn in as president after the assassination of his father, President Laurent-Desiré Kabila.
December 1999 MONUC was established.
July 1999 The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was signed.
August 1998 Congolese insurgents, Uganda and Rwanda battle against President Laurent-Desiré Kabila.
May 1997 Laurent-Desiré Kabila was sworn in as president after a Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebellion.
1994-1996 Rwandan Hutu extremists carried out attacks against Rwanda from Zaire.
1994 After the Rwandan genocide, Rwandan Hutu extremists fled to eastern Zaire.


Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission
William Lacy Swing (US)
Size and Composition of Mission
  • Authorised maximum strength: 17,000 military personnel
  • Strength as of 31 January 2006:15,748 military personnel
  • Main troop contributors: Pakistan, India, Uruguay and South Africa
1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $1,153.89 million (gross)
30 November 1999 to present


Useful Additional Sources


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