Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), which expires on 31 March. Prior to this, it will be briefed by Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and MONUSCO’s head. The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, will also brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.
Key Recent Developments
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and opposition groups reached an agreement on the electoral process on 31 December 2016. This was part of a last-minute effort to address the political crisis precipitated by President Joseph Kabila’s resolve to remain in office beyond the conclusion of his second and—according to the constitution—final term on 19 December 2016.
Under the agreement, Kabila would stay in office until elections are held by the end of 2017. During this period, a “National Council for Overseeing the Electoral Agreement and Process (CNSAP)” would be set up, and a new prime minister named from opposition ranks. On 4 January, the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the signing of the agreement and calling for its swift implementation.
The CNSAP was to be headed by opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi, but he died on 1 February. Furthermore, several aspects regarding the implementation of the agreement were left vague, and indeed, there has been little progress on issues including the composition of the CNSAP and the identity of the interim prime minister. Tshisekedi’s death has compounded disagreement over implementation, as he was to play a leading role in the process. On 16 February, DRC budget minister Pierre Kangudia said that the DRC lacks the $1.8 billion needed to carry out the elections, raising new fears that Kabila is stalling the electoral process. On the same day, the UN, AU, EU and the International Organisation de la Francophonie issued a joint statement calling on all stakeholders, including both the presidential majority and the opposition, to enhance their efforts in implementing the agreement.
Foreign armed groups remained active in eastern DRC. The Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) continues to pose a threat to the security of North Kivu, though the group has been weakened by continuing military operations and an internal split. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continues to operate and attack civilians in Beni territory and to recruit in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. The toll of rebel groups’ activities on civilians continues to be heavy. The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documented 31 killings of civilians in January 2017 by armed groups (including the FDLR, ADF, the Forces de résistance patriotique de l’Ituri and Mayi-Mayi Nyatura groups) and 13 killings of civilians by government forces. Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) are also believed to be responsible for a February massacre of civilians in Kasai. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane updated the Council on recent political and security developments under “any other business” on 23 February.
On a related matter, the DRC sent a letter to the Council President on 27 January claiming that several March 23 Movement (M23) members who had been detained in Uganda awaiting repatriation and reintegration after the defeat of their rebellion in November 2013 have resurfaced in eastern DRC. The letter requested the Council to condemn the M23’s actions and to call on Rwanda and Uganda to facilitate the repatriation of former M23 members. Uganda has acknowledged that M23 members have fled the camp, and it has since arrested some of those who escaped. However, it blames the exodus of M23 members on the DRC for stalling on its reintegration program.
Uruguay, Senegal and Sweden held an Arria-formula meeting on 24 February with heads of the human rights components of three peace operations, including MONUSCO, on human rights and the implementation of the overall mandates of peace operations.
On 30 January, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met with the Group of Experts to discuss their latest midterm report of 23 December 2016. The Committee also met with the representatives of the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to hear their views on the report. The Committee met with the Group’s coordinator, Michael Sharp, on 15 February to receive an update on the group’s work. Sharp discussed the activities of rebel groups and loopholes in the DRC banking system that hamper the implementation of the assets freeze.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In January, the UNJHRO released its analysis of the human rights situation in the DRC in 2016, noting that violations increased from the previous year, in part because of the postponement of national elections and restrictions on democratic participation. The report concluded that state agents were responsible for the majority of human rights violations, with a “very worrying” increase in the number and proportion of violations they committed.
In a 14 February statement, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern at reports that FARDC soldiers killed more than 100 people during clashes with the Kamuina Nsapu militia in Kasai Central Province between 9 and 13 February. According to the reports, FARDC soldiers “opened fire indiscriminately” on militia fighters, and at least 39 women were caught in the gunfire and killed. If confirmed, the spokesperson said, that would “suggest excessive and disproportionate use of force by the soldiers.” The statement also condemned the recruitment of child soldiers by the militias as well as their targeting of state symbols and institutions.
Following the subsequent emergence of a video showing FARDC soldiers carrying out summary executions of unarmed victims, the High Commissioner, in a 20 February statement, called on the DRC government to take immediate steps to halt widespread human rights violations, citing “multiple, credible allegations of massive human rights violations in Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental and Lomami provinces.” The High Commissioner warned that blunt military responses do not address the root causes of conflict between the government and militias and stressed the need for a comprehensive peace plan based on dialogue. Council members issued a press statement on 24 February, expressing grave concern over the incidents and calling on the DRC to investigate the events and hold the perpetrators accountable.
During its 34th session in March, the Human Rights Council is set to hold an interactive dialogue on the DRC.
The immediate issue for the Council is renewing MONUSCO’s mandate.
A key issue for the Council, in the aftermath of Tshisekedi’s death, is ensuring that the 31 December 2016 agreement is implemented and the elections take place in 2017.
The continued violence by rebel groups in the east and emerging violence in Kasai remain a serious threat to peace and security. The violence in the east may worsen if the political crisis does not abate.
While renewing MONUSCO’s mandate, the Council could also:
- revise the role of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in size or tasks in order to better address the situation on the ground;
- call on stakeholders to swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and resolve all outstanding issues in order to hold free and fair elections;
- call on the government to investigate the recent incidents in Kasai and hold accountable those responsible for crimes committed;
- call on all countries in the region to cooperate in addressing the issue of rebel groups, including the M23; and
- request the Secretariat to conduct a strategic review of MONUSCO.
Council members are concerned over the ongoing political crisis in the DRC and the potentially explosive ramifications if the 31 December 2016 agreement fails to bring about fair and timely elections and a peaceful transfer of power. Some Council members emphasise the need for the government to uphold the agreement and hold elections by the end of the year; other members are less concerned with the timeframe and look to all stakeholders as jointly responsible for its implementation, including finding ways to overcome logistical difficulties.
Council members share the view that MONUSCO needs to be more effective. Some Council members note in particular the possibility of rethinking the role of MONUSCO’s FIB. At the same time, most Council members are of the view that because of the present political realities, MONUSCO’s mandate should not be altered until after the end of the electoral cycle, at which point a strategic review of the mission would be warranted.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Egypt chairs the DRC 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 Statements|
|4 January 2017 S/PRST/2017/1||The Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the signing on 31 December 2016 of a comprehensive and inclusive political agreement on the electoral calendar in the DRC.|
|Security Council Letters|
|27 January 2017 S/2017/85||This was a letter from the DRC to the Council on the appearance of M23 members in its territory|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|7 February 2017 SC/12707||This was a press release on the DRC Sanctions Committee’s meeting with regional countries.|
|23 December 2016 S/2016/1102||This was the midterm report by the Group of Experts assisting the 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 January 2017: 16,885 troops, 475 military observers, 1,332 police, 816 international civilian personnel, 2,654 local civilian staff and 338 UN volunteers.
Approved budget (1 July 2016-30 June 2017): $1.23 billion
Mission duration: July 2010 to present