Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is expected to renew the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee, both of which expire at the end of June.
The annual report of the Group will be presented to the Council by the Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt).
The mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expires on 31 March 2017.
Key Recent Developments
On the political front, the presidential elections scheduled for November continue to be a deeply divisive issue in the DRC, given the absence of an agreed electoral calendar or a budget for the elections. The DRC’s electoral commission warned in January that it would take at least 13 months to conduct a census to update the voter register ahead of the vote, pushing any presidential election into 2017. Many fear that President Joseph Kabila intends to stay in power after the second of his constitutionally-mandated two terms expires at the end of 2016, and that the impractically dense electoral calendar and consequent delays are part of a strategy dubbed by rivals as “slippage”. While Kabila has not commented publicly on his political future, the government’s official line is that Kabila will abide by the constitution. In any event, as preparations for elections are at a standstill, it seems less likely that presidential elections can or will be held on time.
Tensions are also high regarding the ability of opposition parties to participate in political activities leading up to the elections. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO Maman Sambo Sidikou and others have warned that the political polarisation has heightened tensions and contributed to an atmosphere of increased harassment and human rights violations, mostly against opposition members, civil society representatives and journalists.
On 4 May, DRC Justice Minister Alexis Mwamba announced a probe into the conduct of presidential candidate Moïse Katumbi, accusing him of recruiting US mercenaries as part of his security detail. The former governor of Katanga province and a wealthy businessman, Katumbi resigned in September 2015 and left Kabila’s party after accusing him of attempting to delay the presidential elections.
Katumbi appeared before the Lubumbashi court a total of three times between 9 and 14 May accompanied by supporters, both outside and within the court room. DRC police dispersed those outside the courtroom with tear gas. Katumbi denied the accusations made against him. (Apparently, Katumbi wrote a letter to MONUSCO requesting protection the day after announcing his candidacy, but MONUSCO leadership decided it could not get involved with a candidate in this way.)
More tensions arose when the DRC Constitutional Court decided on 11 May that the constitution permits the president to remain in office until the installation of the newly-elected president. The decision could allow Kabila to retain his position beyond the end of 2016. Opposition leaders view the decision as “unconstitutional” and continue to maintain that Kabila lacks authority to remain in power beyond his current term.
On 17 May, reports in the media suggested that leaders from the G7 opposition coalition (a group of seven opposition groups in the DRC) visited the US in an attempt to persuade the Obama Administration and members of Congress to impose sanctions on Kabila to force him to abide by the constitution and hold the presidential elections as scheduled. Deputy spokesperson of the US department of state, Mark Toner, said on 22 May that the US is reviewing the possibility of imposing sanctions.
While attention is focused on the political situation, rebel groups continue to spread violence in eastern DRC. The operations of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against the Force Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) continue, though questions regarding their effectiveness remain. According to the annual report of the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee, the operation has disrupted FDLR channels of financing and more than 1,000 FDLR fighters have surrendered. However, the FARDC’s use of local militias to engage the FDLR means that the civilians are still affected by armed groups, even in areas vacated by the FDLR. During a routine police check in Goma, the FDLR chief of staff, Leopard Mujyambare, was arrested. He has been transferred to Kinshasa, where authorities will decide whether to try him or extradite him to Rwanda.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist Ugandan group, continues to wreak havoc in North Kivu. On 4 May, suspected ADF members killed 17 civilians in North Kivu’s Beni territory. Nine other civilians were killed in an ADF attack on three villages on 6 May, according to local authorities.
The 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee was briefed by Sidikou and Sebastian Fasanello, chief of MONUSCO’s Joint Mission Analysis Centre, on 1 March on MONUSCO’s arms embargo-monitoring mandate. Paul Heslop, chief of the UN Mine Action Service Programme Planning and Management Section, briefed on issues of weapons management in the DRC.
On 13 May, the Group of Experts briefed the Committee on their annual report. Though the report is yet to be made public, media reports suggest that Rwanda continues to provide training, financing and logistical support for Burundian rebels seeking to overthrow Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in June 2015. Rwanda has repeatedly denied such accusations. The DRC and Burundi have sent letters to the Council in the past calling for action against Rwanda for assisting Burundian rebels operating in the DRC.
Media reports also suggest that the Group states that FARDC Brigadier General Muhindo Akili Mundos, commander of the FARDC offensive against the ADF between August 2014 and June 2015, financed and equipped ADF elements with weapons, ammunition and FARDC uniforms. Mundos denies the accusations. Apparently the Group added that other FARDC officers serving in the area have also been cooperating with ADF elements.
The Group’s report also discusses violations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) sanctions regimes. The DPRK has supplied the FARDC and Congolese police with pistols, which are also available on the black market in Kinshasa, and sent 30 instructors to provide training for the presidential guard and special forces. The DRC denies these reports.
While much attention was given to these issues in the media, the report apparently focuses more on the illegal trade in natural resources, and particularly gold. The funding of rebel groups through illicit trade has been documented for several years by the Group and continues to be a focus for their reports. In the current report, attention is also given to the role of criminal networks in illicit trade, which endangers the security and livelihood of civilians in the DRC where the minerals are extracted. Specifically, it seems that illicit gold from the DRC has found its way to markets in Burundi, Uganda and Dubai.
Another element apparently raised in the report concerns what is known about the ADF. The report suggests that while the ADF is known as an anti-Ugandan Islamist group, over time its structure has changed and it has incorporated local DRC groups in its ranks, changing its structure, organisation and goals. Thus, in reality, there is much unknown regarding the affiliation of local groups with the ADF and the connection between various rebel groups in Beni with the ADF.
The key issue for the Council in June is renewing the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
A serious concern is the political tension surrounding the electoral calendar and Kabila’s possible attempt to remain in power.
The continued violence of rebel groups still suffered by the population in North Kivu remains a serious threat to peace and security.
Wider regional stability in the Great Lakes region and its relation to the DRC are also matters of concern.
The Council will adopt a resolution renewing the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group. In addition, the resolution could:
- condemn human rights abuses related to the pre-election developments and urge the government to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are held as soon as possible;
- urge the Secretary-General to appoint a mediator to help facilitate a DRC national dialogue and support the work of AU Special Envoy Edem Kodjo to facilitate such dialogue;
- call on all political actors to abide by the constitution and its term limits;
- call on opposition parties to enter immediately into a national dialogue in order to reach consensus on an electoral calendar and hold elections on time or as soon as possible thereafter; and
- call on neighbouring states to cease assistance to rebel groups operating in the region.
The Council (or a representative group of Council members) may also consider visiting the country during the electoral period to take stock of the situation and deliver a strong political message to interlocutors.
While Council members all share concerns over the political tensions surrounding the issue of elections and related human rights abuses, they are split in their attitudes towards the approach to be taken by the Council on the issue. As with divisions regarding Nkurunziza’s third term in Burundi, some view this issue mainly as an internal constitutional matter that should be dealt with through local institutions and regulations such as the Constitutional Court. Other states have a more negative view of actions that seemed to have been taken to override the constitutional order, which may erode the relatively calm security situation in western DRC and result in violence between the government and its opposition. These countries note that the unfolding political situation in the DRC is part of a wider regional trend of leaders unwilling to relinquish power.
France is the penholder on the DRC and Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 March 2016 S/RES/2277||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of MONUSCO for a year.|
|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 Presidential Statements|
|9 November 2015 S/PRST/2015/20||The Council stressed the importance of neutralising armed groups in the DRC and concern that joint operations between the Congolese army and the Force Intervention Brigade in cooperation with the whole of MONUSCO had yet to resume.|
|9 March 2016 S/2016/232||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC.|
|9 March 2016 S/2016/233||This was the report of the Secretary-General on MONUSO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 March 2016 S/PV.7654||This was a briefing on the Secretary-General’s MONUSCO report.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Maman Sambo Sidikou (Niger)
MONUSCO Force Commander
Lieutenant General Derick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi (South Africa)
MONUSCO Size, Composition and Cost of Mission
Strength as of 31 March 2016: 16,936 troops (including 456 military observers and 1,245 police), 816 international civilian personnel, 2,654 local civilian staff and 399 UN volunteers.
Approved budget (1 July 2015-30 June 2016): $1.33 billion
Mission duration: July 2010 to present