Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is likely to extend the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee for a few months in a technical rollover.
The Council will continue to monitor the security and political situation in the DRC and may meet on this depending on how events in the country unfold.
Key Recent Developments
Implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process and a transitional government continues to elude the DRC government and the main opposition coalition, the “Rassemblement”. The agreement 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.
The conference of Catholic bishops, the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), which helped mediate the agreement, withdrew from its mediation role in late March, blaming both sides for the impasse. Kabila then unilaterally appointed former opposition leader Bruno Tshibala as prime minister on 7 April, a move criticised by CENCO and the Rassemblement. In accordance with “special arrangements” agreed between Kabila and smaller opposition parties, Kabila appointed a new government on 9 May, consisting mostly of appointees of his previous government and some from the opposition, a move rejected by the Rassemblement.
In a 4 May press statement, Council members took note of the appointment of Tshibala and of the responses of the Rassemblement and CENCO. They noted that the signatories of the 31 December agreement were unable to reach a consensus on the special arrangements and called on all parties to remain committed to the agreement and the overarching objective of organising peaceful, credible, free, fair and inclusive elections by the end of 2017. The Secretary-General submitted a report to the Council on 17 May on the implementation of the agreement as requested in resolution 2348.
Meanwhile, violence caused by rebel groups in eastern DRC persists, and the situation in the Kasai region continues to deteriorate. The region has suffered from inter-communal violence and clashes between militias and government forces since August 2016, when the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia was killed in clashes with the DRC police. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Maman Sidikou, said on 5 April that possibly over 400 civilians have been killed as well as many members of government forces. The UN humanitarian coordinator in the DRC, Mamadou Diallo, has said that more than a million people have been displaced and 11,000 have fled to Angola.
Both the militias and government forces have been accused of human rights and international humanitarian law violations. In the 4 May press statement, Council members reiterated the importance of prompt and transparent investigations into these violations. In addition, they stressed the need for a full investigation into the killing of two members of the Group of Experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, whose bodies were discovered on 24 March in Kasai. They welcomed the Secretary-General’s establishment of a UN Board of Inquiry into the matter.
Sidikou last briefed the Council on the latest MONUSCO report on 21 March. The president of CENCO, Marcel Utembi, and Marie-Madeleine Kalala of the NGO Common Cause Network also briefed the Council.
On 31 March the Council adopted resolution 2348 renewing the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2018 and lowering its authorised troop ceiling to 16,215 personnel. In response to a recommendation from the Secretary-General to increase the number of formed police units in light of the political situation, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to explore the possibility of inter-mission cooperation from other peacekeeping operations and to report back to the Council with any further recommendations. The resolution also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of MONUSCO by 30 September. The review is to provide options for a reduction of MONUSCO’s military and civilian components to be made after the successful implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, culminating in elections by the end of the year, and sustainable progress in reducing the threat of armed groups. After the agreement is implemented, the Secretary-General is to advise the Council on a phased exit strategy for the mission. (For more background information on this resolution, see our What’s in Blue story of 30 March.)
On 12 April, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, briefed the Council on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.
Sanctions –Related Developments
On 20 March, Sidikou and Djinnit briefed the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. Representatives of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda participated in the meeting.
The annual report of the Group of Experts was to be presented to the Council by 15 June, after consideration by the Committee. However, following the killing of two members of the Group, the report is now expected to be delivered to the Council in August.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed Council members under “any other business” on 23 May, regarding the UN board of inquiry into the killing of the two Group members. In elements to the press after the meeting, Council members reiterated the importance of a swift and full investigation and expressed concern over the closure of the investigation by the Congolese authorities.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 22 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on the DRC during its 34th session. In his statement, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that the human rights situation in the DRC deteriorated in 2016 and the first months of 2017, with an increase in human rights violations resulting from the restriction of democratic space and the resurgence of armed groups. Gilmour labelled the violations committed in Kasai and Lomani provinces in the context of the Kamwina Nsapu crisis a “serious threat to peace in the country”, and reiterated a call for the HRC to “urgently establish” an international commission of inquiry to investigate the violence and abuse that has spread since August 2016.
Following the discovery of at least a further 17 mass graves in Kasai central province, which brought the total discovered in the Kasai region since August 2016 to 40, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a 19 April statement that it was vital for the government of the DRC to conduct a “prompt, transparent, independent investigation” into alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by government soldiers and members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia. The High Commissioner noted that in the absence of an “effective national investigation”, he would “not hesitate to urge the international community to support an investigation by an international mechanism, including the International Criminal Court”.
During its 35th session in June, the HRC is set to hold an interactive dialogue on the DRC in which the Office of the High Commissioner will provide an oral briefing on the human rights situation as mandated by HRC resolution 33/29.
The immediate key issue for the Council is to renew the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
Another key issue for the Council is seeking to ensure that the 31 December 2016 agreement is implemented and that elections take place in 2017.
Also an important issue is how to address the continued violence by rebel groups in the east and emerging violence in Kasai, which remain a serious threat to peace and security.
The Council may extend the current sanctions regime and mandate of the Group of Experts in a technical rollover for a few months in light of the Group’s delayed annual report. A less likely option is for the Council to renew the regime for a full year prior to receiving the final report.
When adopting the resolution, the Council could:
- call on stakeholders to cooperate and swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and resolve all outstanding issues in order to hold free and fair elections;
- consider the use of sanctions against those who act to impede a solution to the political crisis; and
- condemn the mass violence in Kasai and call for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
There seems to be a consensus among Council members about the renewal of the sanctions regime and the mandate of the group of experts. Given the delay in the reporting of the Group of Experts, Council members feel that a technical rollover is warranted to allow time to consider the annual report properly.
Council members continue to be concerned about 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 to hold elections by the end of the year; other members are less concerned with the timeframe and see all stakeholders as jointly responsible for carrying out the elections, including finding ways to overcome difficulties in implementation and logistics.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Egypt chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on the DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2348||The Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2018.|
|23 June 2016 S/RES/2293||This resolution renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.|
|17 May 2017 S/2017/435||This was a report on the implementation of the political agreement of 31 December 2016.|
|10 March 2017 S/2017/208||This was on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.|
|10 March 2017 S/2017/206||This was Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 April 2017 S/PV.7923||This was a briefing by Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Said Djinnit on the situation in the Great Lakes Region.|
|21 March 2017 S/PV.7903||The Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, briefed the Council|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|4 May 2017 SC/12809||This was a press statemen expressing the Council’s concern at the challenges facing the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement and stressing the importance of investigations into recent violence in Kasai.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|7 April 2017 SC/12784||This was a statement on the 20 March meeting of the Committee with regional countries and a briefing by Sidikou and Djinnit.|