October 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 October 2015
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AFRICA

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In October, the Council will be briefed by Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General 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 brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.

MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2016.

Key Recent Developments

Rebel groups continue to spread violence in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Joint operations by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) against the Ugandan Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have been ongoing since January 2014. While ADF leader Jamil Mukulu was captured in Tanzania and extradited to Uganda in July, the group continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Beni, North Kivu. Over the last ten months, more than 400 deaths have been attributed to the ADF.

Starting in April, Council members and troop-contributing countries have been receiving monthly updates at the expert level from the Secretariat on MONUSCO and the FIB. The latest such meeting took place on 11 September, with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefing. He updated the attendees on the status of the joint operations against the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri from the Ngiti ethnic group in Orientale Province, where operations have been successful in reducing human rights violations committed by the group and reportedly lowering its members’ morale. On the ADF, Ladsous said that it has responded to military pressure by targeting civilians it believes are collaborating with the FARDC and MONUSCO. Ladsous also noted an increase in the Lord’s Resistance Army activities in Orientale.

Ladsous added that there has not been any movement on the renewal of MONUSCO-FARDC joint operations against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group. The cooperation has been suspended since February, as MONUSCO will not cooperate with the FARDC generals leading the operation, who are suspected of human rights abuses, in accordance with the UN human rights due-diligence policy. Meanwhile, the DRC continues to operate unilaterally against the group, but the operation has produced very limited results.

On the political front, tensions continue to mount around the upcoming electoral period and questions surrounding President Joseph Kabila’s intentions to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated limit of two terms, which ends in November 2016. The current schedule set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) begins with municipal, urban and local elections to take place on 25 October, followed by senatorial elections on 17 January 2016. Governors and vice-governors will be elected on 31 January 2016, and parliamentary and presidential elections will end the cycle on 27 November 2016.

On 8 September, the DRC Constitutional Court ordered the CENI to reassess the packed electoral calendar, as budgetary and political constraints make it unattainable.

Kabila’s critics see the packed electoral calendar as a ploy for him to stay in power beyond his constitutionally limited term as delays occur. While Kabila has not commented publicly on his political future, the government’s official line is that Kabila will abide by the constitution. On 14 September, seven leaders of political parties within the government coalition wrote a letter to Kabila, demanding that steps be taken to ensure that his presidential term ends in a timely fashion after the November 2016 presidential polls. Three days later, the government announced that the seven had been expelled from the ruling coalition. Two of the seven leaders who held governmental positions were relieved of their duties. Thereafter, on 18 September, civil service minister Jean-Claude Kibala and land affairs minister Bolengetenge Balela quit their posts after they refused to sign a loyalty pledge to Kabila’s majority coalition; the ministers belong to the Social Movement for Renewal party, whose leader was one of the seven expelled from the coalition.

On 15 September, an anti-Kabila rally in Kinshasa turned into a riot when some 3,000 protesters were attacked by unidentified youths. This was the first major anti-Kabila rally since January, when roughly 40 people were killed in clashes between protesters and government forces in several cities. According to the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), there is a documented increase in politically-related human rights violations against the freedom of expression of those criticising the government, including arbitrary arrests and intimidation.

Sanctions-Related Developments

In October, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee will be briefed by the Group of Experts on its midterm report. The chair of the Committee, Ambassador Dina Kawar (Jordan), is expected to brief the Council in November on the report, due to the Council by 30 October. Kawar last briefed the Council on 14 July, following her visit to the country.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In August, the UNJHRO documented 409 human rights violations, compared to 393 recorded in July, with the eastern provinces of the country remaining the most affected. Of these violations, 24 were election-related, including arbitrary arrests and threats, compared with 14 such incidents in July. Journalists were targeted in eight cases, while the same number involved activists.

During its 30th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the DRC, covering June 2014 to May 2015 (A/HRC/30/32). The report highlights issues relating to protection of human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents; sexual violence; extrajudicial killings and summary executions; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the fight against impunity; and protection of civilians.

Key Issues

While military cooperation continues on some fronts, an ongoing issue is the working relationship between MONUSCO and the government, in particular, the breakdown in cooperation against the FDLR.

An increasingly troubling development is the political tension surrounding the electoral calendar and Kabila’s possible attempt to remain in power.

Options

Council members may wish to adopt a statement regarding the need to uphold the constitution and conduct free, fair and timely elections.

The Council may also consider visiting the country during the electoral period to take stock of the situation and deliver a strong political message to interlocutors.

Council and Wider Dynamics

As the recent Council dynamics in the case of Burundi and its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, being elected for what some view as an unconstitutional third term demonstrate, Council members are divided in their perspective on constitutional and electoral matters and how they relate to the issue of sovereignty. Countries such as Russia and China view these issues as mainly internal, while western countries feel that a strong message should be sent to individuals who try to remain in power beyond their constitutional mandate, causing instability and violence in the country. In the case of Burundi, the African members of the Council ultimately sided with those countries that did not want to take a strong position against Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term and the government’s policies in shutting down the opposition.

It is possible that these divisions will play out similarly with respect to the DRC, thus limiting the substance of any statement on the political situation that Council members may agree on. However, unlike the Council dynamics concerning Burundi, Council members have generally seen eye-to-eye on most issues relating to the DRC, and it is possible that common ground may be found. Another consideration which may contribute to achieving consensus is that, unlike in Burundi, there is no constitutional ambiguity regarding Kabila’s obligation to step down at the end of his second term.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
26 March 2015 S/RES/2211 This was a resolution renewing MONUSCO and its intervention brigade until 31 March 2016.
29 January 2015 S/RES/2198 This was a resolution renewing the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
Security Council Meeting Record
14 July 2015 S/PV.7484 This was a briefing by Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Martin Kobler on the latest MONUSCO report and Ambassador Dina Kawar (Jordan), chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, following her visit to the country.
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 August 2015: 23,438 troops (including 481 military observers and 1,178 police), 840 international civilian personnel, 2,725 local civilian staff and 450 UN volunteers.

Approved budget (1 July 2015-30 June 2016): $1.33 billion

Mission duration: July 2010 to present