January 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 December 2016
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AFRICA

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In January, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is likely to brief the Council on developments in the country and the latest report of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, and Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, may also brief the Council.

The Council will closely follow political and security developments in the DRC and may convene additional meetings as necessary.

The mandate of MONUSCO expires on 31 March 2017.

Key Recent Developments

On the political front, the final day of President Joseph Kabila’s second and—according to the Constitution—final term was 19 December 2016, yet he did not leave office. At press time, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), was mediating between the government and representatives of the opposition.in an effort to come up with a political solution and an electoral calendar that would be acceptable to all actors and prevent destabilisation of the country.

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. Kabila would remain in office until the installation of a newly elected president, and a prime minster from the opposition was appointed in the interim. The possibility of Kabila’s running in the elections is not addressed in the agreement.

The dialogue between the government and opposition groups was boycotted by several of the main opposition groups, which in June 2016 formed a coalition called “Rassemblement”. It has vowed to organise popular protests on the 19th of every month to pressure Kabila to step down. The nationwide demonstrations on 19 September turned violent, resulting in the deaths of several dozen protesters and some police. On 19 October, a general strike took place in Kinshasa. Many of the capital’s 10 million residents adhered to the strike, and streets were largely empty, with little traffic.

With large numbers of police and military deployed in the cities, Kinshasa was mainly empty as people stayed in their homes on 19 December 2016. However in a press release on 23 December, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that at least 40 people were killed during protests since 19 December, 107 have been injured and that 460 opposition activists have been arrested throughout the country. “Rassemblement” leader Etienne Tshisekedi urged people on 20 December to resist the “illegitimate regime” by peaceful means. 

Angola and France co-led a Council visiting mission to the DRC and Angola from 11 to 14 November 2016, focusing on the political crisis. On 12 November, the Council members met in Kinshasa with Kabila and several of his cabinet ministers, leaders of “Rassemblement” and members from the opposition parties that participated in the dialogue, among others. In all the meetings, Council members stressed the need to consider the national dialogue as a first step towards an agreement that would be inclusive and lead to a fully democratic electoral process. An overarching concern was seeking ways to avoid violent reactions likely to be prompted by the 19 December expiry of Kabila’s second term by establishing a broadly accepted electoral calendar and a commitment that Kabila would not seek a third term. Council members attempted to mediate between the various actors to find a solution to the impasse but without conclusive results.

On 13 November, Council members visited Beni in eastern DRC, where they were briefed by the MONUSCO force commander and its civilian leadership, local politicians and civil society representatives.

In Luanda, Angola, on 14 November, Council members were scheduled to discuss the situation in the DRC with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos in his capacity as Chair of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and with the President of the National Assembly. Instead, however, Council members met with Angola’s vice president and the vice president of the National Assembly, as both the President and the President of the National Assembly were not in Luanda.

The co-leads of the visiting mission, Ambassadors François Delattre (France) and Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins (Angola), briefed the Council on 23 November.

On 5 December, Sidikou and Assistant Secretary-General Taye-Brook Zerihoun briefed the Council, followed by consultations. At the beginning of the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing its concern about the DRC’s risk of becoming destabilised and welcoming CENCO’s mediation efforts. The Council called on all political stakeholders to continue to work towards a swift political solution before 19 December 2016 that would pave the way for peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections as soon as possible in the DRC. Furthermore, the statement welcomed commitments to respect and preserve the constitution.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met with Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura on 9 November 2016.

The coordinator of the Group of Experts assisting the Committee, Michael Sharp, briefed the Committee on 14 December 2016 on the Group’s midterm report. The report canvasses the activities of several armed groups in the east—including violations of international humanitarian law—that gravely affect civilians. It reports on the illicit extraction of natural resources, including by elements of the Congolese military. At the meeting, the coordinator presented the Committee with names for designation on the sanctions list for exploitation of natural resources and child recruitment. The Committee adopted all of the report’s recommendations except for one about the destruction of old stockpiles of munitions, as one Council member was of the position that this was outside the scope of the Group’s mandate.

On 12 November 2016, the US imposed sanctions on DRC Deputy Prime Minister Evariste Boshab and the head of the national intelligence agency, Kalev Mutondo; on 13 November the EU imposed sanctions on seven individuals for their role in the violent clashes of 19-20 September.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 1 December 2016, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye said in a statement that the government was silencing critics in clear violation of international human rights law, including jamming radio broadcasts and arresting journalists, and targeting the independent media at a time of high political tension. The statement highlighted examples, including a decree issued by the Minister of Information and Media on 12 November that prohibits the international media from operating in the DRC unless they sign an agreement with a local media outlet or establish such an outlet subject to Congolese regulations. It also noted that since the beginning of November, five journalists had been arrested.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is ensuring that the political situation does not destabilise the country and the region and widespread violence does not ensue.

Assisting the DRC government and opposition in reaching a political solution to the electoral crisis is a related main issue.

The continued violence by rebel groups in the east remains a serious threat to peace and security. The violence in the east may worsen if the political crisis does not abate.

Options

The Council could request regular updates from the Secretariat as the situation unfolds. Furthermore, as needed, it could adopt statements:

  • calling on all actors for calm and the cessation of violence;
  • calling on the government to take confidence building steps such as releasing political prisoners and restoring freedom of expression;
  • strongly encouraging stakeholders to engage in good faith efforts to find a solution to the political crisis; and
  • expressing its support for the CENCO efforts.

Through the Sanctions Committee, the Council may impose sanctions on actors, both in the government and the opposition, who destabilise the DRC by contributing to or inciting violence.

Council Dynamics

Council members share concerns over the potential destabilisation of the DRC. During the visiting mission, Council members were able to present a united front and attempted to apply pressure on both the government and the opposition to compromise and find middle ground to end the political impasse. In particular, a commitment from Kabila to step down at the end of the election period was thought by all Council members to be politically desirable.

However, after returning to New York without a commitment to that effect, the Council is again split in their views. In the absence of widespread violence, some Council members view the political crisis mainly as an internal constitutional matter that should be dealt with through local institutions and dialogue among political actors. Other Council members are of the view that addressing actions that seem to have been taken to override the constitutional order and human rights abuses related to the political process are integral to solving the crisis.

France is the penholder on the DRC and Egypt chairs the Sanctions Committee.

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.
Security Council Presidential Statement
5 December 2016 S/PRST/2016/18 This called on all political stakeholders in the DRC to continue to work towards peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections.
Security Council Meeting Records
5 December 2016 S/PV.7826 This was a briefing by Special Representative Maman Sidikou and Assistant Secretary-General Taye-Brook Zerihoun, during which presidential statement S/PRST2016/18 was adopted.
23 November 2016 S/PV.7819 This was a briefing by the co-leads of the visiting mission to the DRC.
2 November 2016 S/PV.7800 This was a briefing by the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, followed by consultations, on the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework and other developments in the region.
Security Council Letters
19 November 2016 S/2016/948 This was a letter with the terms of reference for the visiting mission to the DRC.
Sanctions Committee Documents
9 November 2016 SC/12592 The 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met with Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura.

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