March 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 February 2015
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action
In March, the Council will be briefed by Martin Kobler, Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, will also brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework Agreement.

The Council is expected to renew the mandate of MONUSCO, including its intervention brigade, which expires on 31 March 2015.

Key Recent Developments
The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in recent weeks has been turbulent on several fronts. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group, continues to wreak havoc in the area of Beni, North Kivu, where 17 people were hacked to death with machetes on 4 February. Regarding the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), MONUSCO suspended its support for the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) operation against the FDLR after the DRC refused to remove two generals suspected of human rights abuses. A DRC government spokesperson said that the DRC would not remove the two generals unless they were convicted. MONUSCO’s action does not to affect other joint operations. Meanwhile, the DRC has stated that operations against the FDLR commenced unilaterally, yet so far no combat has been reported.

On the political front, violence erupted on 19 January for several days in Kinshasa, Goma, Bukavu and Lubumbashi during protests against a proposed electoral law. Clashes between protesters and government forces left between 27 and 42 people dead. The proposed law included a clause that called for a census before holding presidential elections scheduled for 2016. The protesters claimed that because conducting a census would take several years, the provision was an attempt by President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidency beyond the two terms allowed in the constitution. On 15 February, the DRC senate adopted the legislation without the disputed clause, and presidential and legislative elections have been scheduled for 27 November 2016.

The Council has received several recent briefings on the situation in the DRC. Kobler briefed members via video-teleconference under “any other business” on 5 January at the request of France. He updated them with statistics about the surrender of members of the FDLR and confiscated weapons. He added that MONUSCO was ready to commence operations against the FDLR once Kabila approved the MONUSCO-FARDC Joint Directive for military operations (an operational plan for joint military engagement).

The DRC said in a 6 January letter that military action against the FDLR is inevitable and that all necessary operational measures will be taken to that effect. In a telephone conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 7 January, Kabila assured him that the DRC was ready to take action, with the available assistance of MONUSCO. (The FARDC, however, has reportedly cooperated with the FDLR in the past.)

On 8 January, the Council adopted a presidential statement taking note of the DRC’s statement that military action is “inevitable” and reiterating the need for the DRC, together with MONUSCO, through its intervention brigade, to neutralise the FDLR by commencing military operations immediately. To that end, it called on Kabila to immediately approve the Joint Directive.

On 22 January, the Council was briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the strategic review of MONUSCO and on MONUSCO’s latest report. Ladsous noted criticism from national interlocutors regarding the poor performance of some of MONUSCO’s contingents. He said a change of behaviour is required by some contingents and that they all must be willing to use force to protect civilians. He conveyed the review’s key recommendation that the force level be decreased by 2,000 troops, based on the relative improvement in security in some parts of the DRC, improvements in the capacity of the FARDC and MONUSCO’s transformation into a more agile and flexible force. He stated that Kabila had voiced his wish to see MONUSCO reduce its troop numbers more significantly but Ladsous warned that any such decrease could have negative implications on the ability of MONUSCO to fulfil its mandate. As for future reductions and an exit strategy, Ladsous said that these should depend on the DRC’s capacity to progressively take over the mission’s functions and achieve specific targets and criteria that are to be developed jointly with the government.

He added that neutralising armed groups is a key priority for MONUSCO and operations against the FDLR must commence immediately. Such operations, he said, will require both resources and time, and measures should be taken to avoid humanitarian consequences for the population in the areas concerned.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Dina Kawar (Jordan), briefed the Council on the report and recommendations of the Committee’s Group of Experts (S/2015/19) on 22 January. She informed the Council of her intention to visit the Great Lakes Region in 2015 and the Committee’s intention to meet with the DRC’s neighbouring countries in March. She also suggested that Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, Kobler and the chair of the African Group of UN member states should brief the Committee.

On 29 January, the Council adopted resolution 2198 renewing the DRC sanctions until 1 July 2016 and the mandate of the Group of Experts until 1 August 2016. During the negotiations on the resolution, a permanent member (with the support of some other Council members) wanted to change the language referring to FDLR leaders as including perpetrators of “the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda” to “the genocide in Rwanda” (the latter wording was used in UN documents until resolution 2136 of January 2014, when Rwanda insisted on adding the words “against the Tutsi” from that point onward). However, other Council members opposed the proposed change, and resolution 2198 refers to the genocide against the Tutsi.   

Key Issues
An immediate issue is to oversee MONUSCO’s operations in neutralising rebel groups, including the ADF, ensuring, in particular, that the DRC follows through on its statements concerning military action against the FDLR, and MONUSCO’s role in these operations, while limiting any humanitarian consequences for civilians.

A related issue is maintaining a productive working relationship between MONUSCO and the government, which is crucial for the overall success of the mission and achieving progress in the DRC.

Another key issue is to follow closely the implementation of the PSC Framework, in particular the disarmament and reintegration of combatants by the DRC, including the deplorable living conditions in some of the pre-disarmament demobilisation and reintegration camps (one example being the Kotakoli site where a 1 October 2014 Human Rights Watch report indicates that over 100 combatants and their dependants have died from starvation and disease).

In the renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate, the Council might:
  • call on the DRC and other countries to improve implementation of their commitments under the PSC Framework, including the neutralisation of armed groups;
  • reduce MONUSCO’s troop numbers by 2,000 in accordance with the recommendation of the strategic review;
  • call on the DRC to remove commanders suspected of human rights violations from positions of power and cooperate with MONUSCO in its operation against the FDLR (if this issue has not been resolved by the time the Council adopts the renewal);
  • indicate that MONUSCO is authorised to act against the FDLR unilaterally without the cooperation of the FARDC; and
  • authorise MONUSCO to conduct a joint assessment with the government to define a clear benchmark and goal-oriented eventual exit strategy for MONUSCO.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members continue to be concerned about the need to neutralise the FDLR, with no indication that the DRC has taken any action on the ground against the group at press time. For some Council members, the public friction between MONUSCO and the DRC over the leadership of the operation must be understood in the wider context of the DRC’s questionable commitment to neutralising the FDLR. The rift also raises concerns over the possibility that Rwanda could resort to unilateral action in DRC territory against the FDLR, as it has done in the past. If joint MONUSCO-DRC operations are not feasible, some Council members may reconsider their opposition to unilateral anti-FDLR operations by MONUSCO’s intervention brigade.

Council members are also concerned that the friction between MONUSCO and the DRC concerning the FDLR operation may reflect a more general rift. At this point in time, however, it is too soon to tell if this reflects a low point in a fluctuating relationship with the Kabila regime that has more to do with internal politics than an actual change in the DRC’s attitude towards the UN presence.

At the recent consultations, it seemed that Council members were in general agreement with the recommendations of the strategic review to downsize the mission by 2,000 troops. At the same time, some would like more information about how MONUSCO’s operations will adapt with its remaining resources and troop numbers.  

France is the penholder on the DRC.

UN Documents  

Security Council Resolutions
29 January 2015 S/RES/2198 This was a resolution renewing the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
28 March 2014 S/RES/2147 This resolution renewed the mandate of MONUSCO – including its intervention brigade – until 31 March 2015.
Security Council Presidential Statement
8 January 2015 S/PRST/2015/1 This was a presidential statement reiterating the need for the DRC, together with MONUSCO, through its intervention brigade, to neutralise the FDLR by commencing military operations immediately.
Security Council Meeting Record
22 January 2015 S/PV.7367 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous on the strategic review of MONUSCO and by SRSG Martin Kobler on MONUSCO’s latest report. The chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Dina Kawar (Jordan) also briefed.
Security Council Letter
6 January 2015 S/2015/9 This was from the DRC expressing its commitment to undertake military action against the FDLR.
Secretary-General’s Reports
30 December 2014 S/2014/957 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the strategic review of MONUSCO.
30 December 2014 S/2014/956 This was the report of the Secretary-General on MONUSCO.

Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Martin Kobler (Germany)

MONUSCO Force Commander
Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil)

MONUSCO Size, Composition and Cost of Mission
Strength as of 31 January 2015: 21,060 troops (including 484 military observers and 1,101 police), 920 international civilian personnel, 2,751 local civilian staff and 429 UN volunteers.

Approved budget (1 July 2014-30 June 2015): $1.46 billion

Mission duration: July 2010 to present


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