February 2009 Monthly Forecast


Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action
In February the tense security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is expected to be on the Council’s programme of work. The detention of General Laurent Nkunda and the new joint military campaign by DRC and Rwanda forces against the Rwandan Hutu rebel Forces democratiques pour la libération du Rwanda, or FDLR—an armed militia linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide and responsible for violence in North Kivu—radically changes the dynamics in eastern DRC. It seems likely to raise some new concerns in the Council about the situation, especially about the role of future mediation and in particular about the risks for civilians.

Key Recent Developments
Significant developments took place in eastern DRC in January. On 20 January Rwandan troops crossed the border with DRC consent to undertake a joint operation with the DRC forces against the FDLR.

Contrary to resolution 1856 the UN was excluded from the planning and oversight of this operation. On 28 January the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) accepted an invitation to second staff to the headquarters of the operation and announced its willingness to provide other assistance (including monitoring and mentoring) to the joint military operation as well as to help with the reintegration of Nkunda’s Congrés national pour la defense du peuple, or CNDP troops and repatriation to Rwanda of FDLR members.

On 23 January the Rwandan authorities detained Nkunda, the CNDP leader. The DRC immediately requested his extradition on the grounds that Nkunda was Congolese and had committed crimes on DRC territory. There are reports that he has been transferred to DRC custody.

On 27 January the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide briefed the Council in a private discussion following his visit to DRC in late 2008.

On 28 January the French presidency of the Council spoke orally to the media following a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet. He said that, while Council members were encouraged by the cooperation between DRC and Rwanda, the protection of civilians was a major issue and they called for respect for international humanitarian law. He also expressed the need for MONUC to be more closely involved in oversight of the operation and envisaged the need for a new wider UN mediation role.

Earlier in January internal divisions in the CNDP emerged. One of its main commanders, Jean-Bosco Ntaganda—an International Criminal Court (ICC) indictee—challenged Nkunda’s continued leadership of the CNDP and defected to cooperate with DRC government forces.

On 15 January the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the mediation between the Congolese government and the CNDP. Obasanjo had called on members to “use whatever leverage” they had with the Congolese parties to attain a sustainable solution. He noted that immediately before his briefing to the Council both parties had assumed an intransigent stance. It seems the mediation has now been overtaken by the detention of Nkunda and the collapse of his military support.

Obasanjo alerted the Council about the emerging cooperation between DRC and Rwanda. He said that the DRC and Rwanda had agreed on a military plan to put pressure on the FDLR. Council members subsequently met Obasanjo in closed consultations to continue discussion of the recent developments.

In January the DRC situation has also been affected by the continued predation by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Provence Orientale region of the DRC. Joint military operations were carried out by the DRC, South Sudan and Ugandan armies against the LRA. On 16 January the Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the recent LRA attacks It emphasised that those responsible must be brought to justice. The Secretary-General on 30 December condemned the appalling atrocities and demanded that the LRA respect all rules of international humanitarian law.

Hearings were held from 12 to 15 January by ICC judges on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against former Congolese rebel warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. Bemba had been arrested in May 2008 on a warrant from the ICC on charges relating to the period between 2002 and 2003 when former President Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic, requested Bemba’s Congolese Liberation Movement to assist him suppress coup attempts in his country. Bemba joined Thomas Lubanga, a former Congolese militia leader and two other alleged Congolese warlords also indicted by the ICC. The trial of Lubanga opened on 26 January 2009. He is accused of recruiting child soldiers and is the first defendant to appear before the ICC since its inception.

Developments in the Sanctions Committee
On 22 December the Council adopted resolution 1857 renewing the DRC sanctions (i.e. weapons restrictions, assets freeze and travel ban) and the mandate of the Group of Experts until 30 November 2009. It introduced two new categories:

  • individuals obstructing access to or distribution of humanitarian assistance in eastern DRC; and
  • individuals or entities supporting illegal armed groups in the eastern DRC through illicit trade of natural resources.

Key Issues
One issue for the Council is whether recent developments might open the way to a durable closure to the cycle of violence involving the Congolese army, CNDP, FDLR, pro-government militias and regional actors which is estimated to have killed thousands and displaced over a million people between 2006 and 2009.

A second alternative is whether, to the contrary, the use of military force in the joint DRC/Rwanda military operation against the FDLR will stall (as the joint operation against the militarily much weaker LRA has stalled) and inevitably result in renewed attacks against civilians or even ethnically inspired violence against FDLR supporters among the Hutu minority in eastern DRC. (In this context further input from the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, could add value.)

A third issue is how much leverage the Council has lost—given the initial decision by Rwanda and the DRC to marginalise the UN. The exclusion of MONUC from the planning of joint operations between DRC and Rwanda against the FDLR was seen as directly contravening the provisions of resolution 1856 and it raises yet another complicating factor.

A fourth issue is what the future role for mediation efforts by Special Envoy Obasanjo is and whether the joint military operation should be urgently supplemented by a renewed and comprehensive plan to resolve the FDLR problem peacefully.

A fifth question is whether it any longer makes sense to try to get additional UN troops on the ground. The problems addressed in resolution 1856, including the protection of civilians could become less acute if the joint operation by DRC and Rwanda is quick and successful. But equally if the operation is paralysed, risks for civilians will reemerge. However, the role of the MONUC protection mandate becomes much more problematic if it is seeking to protect civilians against the joint strength of the DRC and Rwandan armies. Monitoring and mentoring may help, but a key issue is whether the Council can devise a more vigorous way to back this up.

A final issue is how the Council should act, in a prevention mode, so as to avoid a possible humanitarian disaster in the wake of clashes between the DRC-Rwanda joint forces and the FDLR. (The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concern about possible massive civilian displacements that might be caused by intensive military operations.)

Options for the Council in February include:

(i) welcoming the detention of Nkunda, noting the importance of rule of law issues relating to him personally, but also demanding that all those charged with serious crimes (e.g. Ntaganda) be detained as well;
(ii) calling attention to risks associated with the military option chosen by Rwanda and DRC, including for the fragile humanitarian situation, and the critical need for protection of civilians;
(iii) convening a private meeting with the DRC and Rwanda to listen directly to their positions but also to lay out a clear Council expectation that they ensure protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law;
(iv) calling for the opening of a parallel track offering peaceful alternatives including fair treatment for FDLR members accused of atrocities, serious incentives for other FDLR supporters and offering a Council leadership role in this regard;
(v) sending a small urgent Council mission to the region to regain Council leverage and leadership and report back to the Council with options for demobilisation and repatriation strategies for FDLR supporters and associated civilians;
(vi) requesting the Secretary-General to immediately readjust the Obasanjo mandate to address the full spectrum of community reconciliation issues in eastern DRC and provide support for the Security Council leadership; and
(vii) noting with concern the exclusion of MONUC from the planning of joint military operations by DRC and Rwanda against the FDLR and non-compliance with resolution 1856 and insisting that MONUC observers be given comprehensive access to operations in the field.

Council Dynamics
While Council members were initially encouraged by signs of increasing cooperation between the DRC and Rwanda, the detention of Nkunda and the joint operation against the FDLR have added a completely new dimension to the equation. Also the fact that the joint operations were planned and carried out without the participation of MONUC as required by the Council’s 22 December resolution 1856 is seen by some members as constituting a new and worrying dynamic in the region, bypassing the UN.

In light of these developments, Council members initially preferred to wait and see the unfolding of events. It seems at time of writing that this approach may not continue as evidenced by the press comments by the French presidency of the Council on 28 January.

The pace at which significant events are unfolding on the ground could prompt Council action, especially with regard to concerns about the humanitarian implications.

France is the lead country on this issue in the Council.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1857 (22 December 2008) renewed the sanctions regime for DRC and extended the mandate of the Group of Experts until 30 November.
  • S/RES/1856 (22 December 2008) renewed MONUC’s mandate and continued authorisation of an additional 3,085 troops for MONUC until 31 December 2009.
  • S/RES/1843 (20 November 2008) authorised the temporary deployment of additional troops to reinforce MONUC’s capacity.
  • S/RES/1807 (31 March 2008) lifted the arms embargo for government forces, strengthened measures related to aviation and customs.
  • S/RES/1698 (31 July 2006), 1649 (21 December 2005) and 1596 (18 April 2005) strengthened sanctions, including, in resolution 1698, provisions against actors recruiting and using children in armed conflict in the DRC.

Latest Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/48 (22 December 2008) welcomed regional efforts to address the security threat posed by LRA.
  • S/PRST/2008/40 (29 October 2008) condemned the rebel CNDP offensive in the eastern region of the DRC and noted the request for reinforcement of MONUC.
  • S/PRST/2008/38 (21 October 2008) expressed concern about the resurgence of violence in the eastern parts of the DRC, requested a comprehensive analysis of the situation.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2008/728 (18 November 2008) was the fourth special report on the DRC.

Selected Sanctions Committee Document

  • S/2008/773 (12 December 2008) was the latest report of the Group of Experts for the DRC.


  • SC/9576 (16 January 2009) was the statement of the Security Council expressing concern about LRA activities.
  • SG/SM/12029 (30 December 2008) was the Secretary-General’s press statement on the LRA.
  • S/2008/791 (15 December 2008) was the response from Rwanda to the accusations of the Group of Experts for the DRC
  • S-8/1 (1 December 2008) was the resolution adopted by the Special Session of the Human Rights Council.

Other Relevant Facts

Chairman of the DRC Sanctions Committee

Ambassador Baki Ilkin (Turkey)

Group of Experts

  • Sergio Finardi (Italy, aviation expert)
  • Jason Stearns (USA, regional expert and coordinator of the Group)
  • Mouctar Kokouma Diallo (Guinea, customs expert)
  • Peter Danssaert (Belgium, arms expert)
  • Dinesh Mahtani (UK, finance expert)

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Alan Doss (UK)

MONUC Interim Force Commander

Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye (Senegal)

Size, Composition and Cost of Mission

  • Strength as of 30 November 2009: 16,587 troops, 718 military observers, 1,079 police, 934 international civilian personnel and 2,183 local civilian staff, 591 UN volunteers.
  • Approved budget (1 July 2008 – 30 June 2009): $1,242.73 million


30 November 1999 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2009.

Useful Additional Resources
Conflict Risk Alert: DR Congo, International Crisis Group, 27 January 2009
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