Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In October, the Council will be briefed on several reports on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that are due by the end of September.
Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), will brief on the latest MONUSCO report. Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, may brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework Agreement.
The Council will also be briefed on the strategic review of MONUSCO requested in resolution 2348 of 31 March.
At press time, it is unclear if the Council will conduct a review of the sanctions regime in October. (Resolution 2360 of 21 June called for the review since it was adopted before the final report of the previous Group of Experts, which was delayed because two of its members were murdered while conducting investigations for the report.)
MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2018.
Key Recent Developments
The violence in Kasai, the area in south-central DRC, continues. Intercommunal conflict and clashes between militias and government forces in the region began in August 2016 when the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia was killed in fighting with the DRC police. Violence continues in the east as well. On 17 September, a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed in clashes with armed groups in North Kivu. Council members condemned the incident in a press statement on 21 September.
On the political front, the DRC electoral commission has said that elections will not be possible by the end of the year, the timeframe set in the 31 December agreement, citing logistical difficulties with voter registration, including the challenging conditions in Kasai. President Joseph Kabila, whose second and—under the country’s constitution—last term in office ended in December 2016, remains in power, and his opponents accuse him of purposely stalling elections.
Felix Tshisekedi, the head of the opposition “Rassemblement” coalition, has called for widespread civil disobedience from 1 October, asserting that Kabila has lost all credibility in the eyes of the public and that elections must be held by the end of the year. In lieu of elections by then, Tshisekedi called for Kabila to step down, to be followed by a six-month transitional period. Kabila’s allies have said that he should be part of any transitional arrangement.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held a summit on 19-20 August in which it decided to appoint a Special Envoy to help the DRC prepare for elections. A SADC statement commended Kabila and other stakeholders for progress made in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement and noted the challenges that have made it unrealistic for the DRC to hold elections by December 2017. The AU Peace and Security Council held a meeting on the DRC on 23 August after which it adopted a decision welcoming the SADC statement.
As a follow-up to the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry regarding the murder in March of two members of the DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts—presented to Council members under “any other business” on 22 August by Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Peter Drennan—the Secretary-General has reportedly decided to send a team of experts to join DRC efforts to investigate the incident.
On 15 September, Congolese military killed at least 36 Burundian refugees in South Kivu who were protesting the expected repatriation of some of their compatriots. One soldier also died. The DRC government said it will investigate the incident.
On 7 September, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met with the newly appointed Group of Experts assisting it to discuss their programme of work and priorities before their departure for the DRC.
The committee also discussed the tentative plans of its chair, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), to undertake a visit to the DRC in October. Additionally, he may travel to Brazzaville to attend a meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the PSC Framework Agreement, and to Dubai to discuss ways to tackle the illegal exploitation and smuggling of gold from the DRC and its sale in markets in the region.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 36th session in September, the Human Rights Council considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the DRC (A/HRC/36/34). The report, covering June 2016 to May 2017, documented an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation, with violence in the Kasai region resulting in the deaths of at least 596 people, including 153 children, and the displacement of more than one million people. In the provinces of Kasai, Tanganyika, North Kivu and South Kivu, the number of militias and armed groups—including self-defence groups—has increased, and inter-ethnic tensions have resulted in a number of attacks on civilians, the report said.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council remains the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement. Another important issue is addressing the continuing violence in the east and the increasing violence in Kasai.
In the longer term, the Council will need to assess the findings of MONUSCO’s strategic review, particularly in light of the security and electoral challenges.
The Council may choose to send stakeholders in the DRC key messages and adopt a resolution or a presidential statement that:
- calls on stakeholders to cooperate and swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and resolve all outstanding issues so that timely, free and fair elections can be held in accordance with the agreement;
- condemns the mass violence in Kasai and elsewhere and calls for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law; and
- threatens the imposition of targeted sanctions against those identified as having failed to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement.
Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis and agree that the publication of a clear timetable for elections is vital and necessary to avoid further tensions and possible escalation of violence.
There are divisions, however, on the importance of holding elections in 2017 as stipulated by the 31 December 2016 agreement. Some Council members, such as France and Italy, emphasise the potentially dire consequences of further delaying elections and will likely continue to insist that they be held by the end of the year. They maintain that the regional organisations should be asserting more pressure on Kabila to hold timely elections. The US has publicly stated that sanctions may be called for to spur actors to push for elections. Nevertheless, these Council members are aware that elections in 2017 seem highly unlikely. Other Council members, such as Russia and Egypt, assert that the timing of elections is less important than ensuring that they are peaceful and inclusive, and that Kabila and the opposition need to agree on a new realistic timetable.
The expected delays in the electoral process and continuing violence in parts of the country will also affect the content of MONUSCO’s strategic review and its implementation. During negotiations over resolution 2348, many Council members were of the view that plans for downsizing MONUSCO and an eventual exit strategy are premature prior to the successful implementation of the 31 December agreement. However, the US insisted on a shorter time schedule to advance discussions of the future of MONUSCO.
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.|
|15 August 2017 S/2017/712||This was a report on the implementation of the political agreement of 31 December 2016.|
|Security Council Letters|
|15 August 2017 S/2017/713||This was a letter from the Secretary-General containing the executive summary of the Board of Inquiry’s report on the murder of two members of the DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|21 September 2017 SC/12999||This condemned the attack in North Kivu that led to the death of a Tanzanian peacekeeper.|