Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council expects to be briefed by Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), on the Secretary-General’s three-monthly report on the implementation of MONUSCO’s mandate and most recent developments.
The mandate of MONUSCO expires on 31 March 2018.
Key Recent Developments
Violence has continued in the Kasai region in southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Intercommunal clashes between militias and government forces began in August 2016, when the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia was killed in fighting with the DRC police. Over 1.3 million people have now been displaced from their homes, with the UN Refugee Agency reporting that over 30,000 have fled south to Angola. Beyond Kasai, the DRC remains highly unstable, and violence also continues across a number of locations in eastern DRC.
There has been little progress in the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process; the government and the main opposition coalition, the “Rassemblement”, have been unable or unwilling to form a transitional government. Opposition leaders have accused President Joseph Kabila of seeking to use the current crisis in the Kasai for political advantage, and of failing to comply with the 31 December 2016 agreement. The agreement attempted to address the political crisis created by Kabila’s ongoing determination to remain in office beyond the conclusion on 19 December 2016 of his second and, according to the constitution, final term.
The intended establishment of a transitional government is envisaged to be the first step in preparation for the presidential, national and provincial legislative elections that the 31 December 2016 agreement stipulates will occur in 2017. In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel on 3 June, Kabila reportedly declared that he had made no promises, but that he did wish to organise elections. The process of voter registration is reported to be facing long delays, and seems unlikely to be completed before November.
On 15 June, the Kofi Annan Foundation released an open letter signed by Kofi Annan and nine African former heads of state, expressing deep concern at the situation in the DRC, and identifying it as a threat to African stability, prosperity and peace. The letter’s signatories called on Kabila and other Congolese leaders to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement as a means to ensure elections occur by the end of the year.
Moïse Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga province who fled into exile in 2016, has announced his intention to return to DRC to contest the presidential election. It is unclear when exactly Katumbi will return to DRC, or how he will be received on arrival. Katumbi has a strong base of support, particularly in Katanga. However, he faces charges of attempting to hire mercenaries and has been convicted in absentia for selling a house that he did not own. Katumbi contests both charges and says the accusations are politically motivated. His return may be a catalyst for protests and clashes between his supporters and security forces.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a 9 June statement, called on the Human Rights Council (HRC) to establish an international investigation into the widespread human rights violations and abuses that have occurred in the Kasai since August 2016, a call also made by a coalition of 262 Congolese and nine NGOs in a press release on 1 June. The High Commissioner said that the “scale and nature of these human rights violations and abuses, and the consistently inadequate responses of the domestic authorities, oblige us to call for an international investigation to complement national efforts.”
On 23 June, the HRC adopted without a vote resolution 35/33 on technical assistance to the DRC and accountability concerning the events in the Kasai region. The resolution requests the High Commissioner to “dispatch a team of international experts, including experts from the region” to investigate “alleged human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in the Kasai regions” in cooperation with the DRC government, and to submit the conclusions of the investigation to the judicial authorities in the DRC. The High Commissioner is set to present an oral update to the HRC at its 37th session and submit a comprehensive report at its 38th session, with the investigative team also invited to participate in interactive dialogues with the HRC on both occasions.
The 1533 DRC sanctions regime was renewed on 21 June for an additional year by resolution 2360. The renewal is largely a technical rollover, however it did extend by two months the deadline for the final report by the Group of Experts, and introduced attacks on the Group of Experts as new criterion for the imposition of targeted sanctions against individuals. Both are in response to the murder of two members of the DRC Group of Experts, American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalán.
The key issue for the Council is seeking to ensure that the 31 December 2016 agreement is implemented and that elections take place in 2017.
Another important issue is how to address the continued violence in the east and the emerging violence in Kasai, which remain a serious threat to peace and security.
Establishing facts and accountability for the murder of the two 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee’s experts is an important issue for Committee members.
One option is for the Council to issue a presidential statement that:
- calls 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;
- threatens the use of sanctions against those who act to impede a solution to the political crisis; and
- condemns the mass violence in Kasai and elsewhere, and calls for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Another option is for the Council to establish clear implications if elections are not held before the end of 2017. Such implications could include targeted sanctions against those identified as having failed to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement. A resolution that includes benchmarks for implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement is one option for setting out potential consequences for spoilers.
Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis and the potentially explosive ramifications if the 31 December 2016 agreement does not result in fair and timely elections and a peaceful transfer of power. Some Council members have expressed concern that the perpetuation of the violence in Kasai undermines the viability of inclusive and fair elections. The Council is divided on the importance of elections occurring this year: some members emphasise the need for full implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement this year to move DRC beyond the current crisis; other members see all stakeholders as jointly responsible for carrying out the elections and believe the timing of them is less important than the elections occurring in a peaceful and inclusive manner.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Egypt chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2360
|This renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2348
|The Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2018.
|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 the 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 Statements
|4 May 2017 SC/12809
|This was a press statement 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 Documents
|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.