Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council is expected to undertake a visiting mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Council will also be briefed by the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, followed by consultations, on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement (PSC Framework) and other developments in the region.
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 election originally scheduled for 27 November continues to be a deeply divisive issue in the DRC, given that it will now not be held before the second and—according to the Constitution—final term of President Joseph Kabila ends on 19 December. On 17 October, the Constitutional Court granted a petition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to postpone elections to 2018 in order to perform the necessary updates to the voter registry.
Meanwhile, on 18 October, participants in the “national dialogue” on elections signed an agreement on a new electoral calendar. According to the proposed agreement, provincial, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held in April 2018, and local elections would be held simultaneously or within half a year from the other elections. According to the agreement, Kabila would remain in office until the installation of a newly elected president, and a prime minster from the opposition will be appointed in the interim.
The dialogue between the government and opposition groups is being boycotted by several of the main opposition groups, which have formed a coalition called “Rassemblement”. The “Rassemblement” has vowed to organise popular protests to pressure Kabila to step down on the 19th day of every month until the formal end of Kabila’s term on 19 December. The nationwide demonstrations on 19 September turned violent, with several dozen protesters and some police killed. On 19 October, a general strike took place in Kinshasa. According to media reports, many of the capital’s 10 million residents adhered to the strike and streets were largely empty, with little traffic.
Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Ambassador Amr Aboulatta (Egypt), the chair of the DRC Sanctions Committee, briefed the Council on 11 October, followed by consultations. Sidikou stressed that the DRC has entered a period of extreme fragility and that the only way forward is for all parties to re-engage in an inclusive dialogue. He noted that MONUSCO is making the necessary contingency plans, but if widespread violence erupts due to the electoral impasse, MONUSCO will not have the capabilities to successfully protect civilians. During consultations, several Council members reiterated their positions, some that the political tensions are essentially an internal issue, and others stressing the need to pressure the government and the opposition to find a political solution.
On the Great Lakes, the Secretary-General recommended in a 4 October letter to the Council that the role of the Special Envoy be expanded beyond issues relating to the PSC Framework. In response, the Council said that it welcomed further discussions on the recommendations in the coming weeks, as several Council members felt that the proposals required further elaboration as to their financial and organisational ramifications. The briefing on the Great Lakes comes at the request of the Secretariat in order to have a discussion on the region separate from that on the DRC, including on the prospective role of the Special Envoy.
The visiting mission to the DRC will be co-led by Angola and France. Council members are expected to begin their trip in Kinshasa, where they will meet with key political actors, followed by a visit to Beni and Goma in the east. From there they will travel to Luanda for an update on the 26 October summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR) by Angolan President José dos Santos, who is currently chair of the ICGLR. Council members started discussing the possibility of such a mission in early October and decided to hold the visit prior to the planned 19 November protests and the 27 November constitutional deadline for the election in an attempt to promote a message of stability and compromise among all political stakeholders.
The DRC Sanctions Committee met on 10 October with the countries of the region to discuss improved implementation of the sanctions regime, following Aboulatta’s visit to the region from 1 to 6 August.
In his briefing to the Council on 11 October, Aboulatta identified the security situation in the east, political tensions and the illicit exploitation of natural resources as key impediments to implementation of the sanctions regime.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 30 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted, without a vote, a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building for human rights in the DRC (A/HRC/33/L.26). The resolution strongly condemns recent deadly clashes in Kinshasa and elsewhere in the country. It also calls on the government to ensure equitable political participation and to create without delay the necessary conditions for holding free, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections. The resolution requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the situation of human rights in the DRC during the electoral period, to be presented during an enhanced interactive dialogue at the HRC’s 36th session in September 2017.
A UN Joint Human Rights Office report released in October, covering the period from 1 January 2014 to 31 March, concluded that, despite progress made by the authorities in holding perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable, a very low number of state agents, especially senior officers and leaders and combatants of armed groups, are prosecuted and convicted compared to the high number of violations reported.
A key issue for the Council is resolving the political tensions and potential for widespread violence surrounding the electoral calendar.
The continued violence by rebel groups in the east remains a serious threat to peace and security. The violence in the east may further worsen if the political situation destabilises western DRC.
On its visiting mission, the Council could:
- apply pressure and offer some incentives to Kabila to announce that he would not seek another term and seek to ensure that elections are held before 2018;
- encourage the “Rassemblement” coalition to engage with the government in order to reach agreement and resolve the political crisis; and
- threaten to impose sanctions on actors, both in the government and the opposition, who destabilise the DRC by contributing to electoral violence or inciting violence.
On the Great Lakes, the Council may decide to expand the role of the Special Envoy after receiving further clarifications on this issue from the Secretary-General.
Council members all have similar concerns over the potential destabilisation of the DRC due to the political crisis and hope that a visiting mission will provide an opportunity for the Council to pressure the relevant actors to engage and reach an agreement to hold timely elections and resolve other political issues. (The Council visited the DRC annually from 2000 through 2010; its most recent mission to the country was in 2013.) Council members will strive to present a united front towards the various stakeholders during their visit, although they continue to have diverging views on the nature of the crisis and what may or may not constitute undue interference in internal constitutional matters by the Council and other international actors. However, there seems to be consensus about the need to apply pressure on both the government and the opposition to compromise and find middle ground to end the political impasse.
UN Documents on the DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|23 June 2016 S/RES/2293||This resolution renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.|
|30 March 2016 S/RES/2277||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of MONUSCO for a year.|
|4 October 2016 S/2016/840||This was on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC.|
|3 October 2016 S/2016/833||This was on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|11 October 2016 S/PV.7788||This was a briefing on the latest MONUSCO report and on the activities of the DRC Sanctions Committee.|
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 August 2016: 16,735 troops (including 478 military observers and 1,407 police), 816 international civilian personnel, 2,654 local civilian staff and 364 UN volunteers.
Approved budget (1 July 2016-30 June 2017): $1.23 billion
Mission duration: July 2010 to present