Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council will continue to follow developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) closely in light of the fragile political, security and humanitarian situation. During the month, the Council expects to receive the 45-day written update of the Secretary General “on political and technical progress and obstacles to the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement”, as per resolution 2348.
Key Recent Developments
The political environment in the DRC remains tense. It appears that the timetable established by the 31 December 2016 agreement will not be met. The agreement between the government and the opposition was designed to address the political impasse resulting from President Laurent Kabila’s failure to step down at the end of his second (and, according to the constitution, final) term in late 2016. However, on 10 October, the DRC electoral commission announced that voter registration in the restive Kasai region, which began in September, would require a total of three months to be finalised and that at least 504 days would be required to organise the election following the completion of voter registration. According to this schedule, the election would not be conducted until April 2019 or later. Opposition figure Claudel Lubaya was quoted by Reuters as saying that the electoral commission’s announcement was “an election-killing agenda” and that “[e]verything now rests on the shoulders of the population, which must take matters into its own hands”.
The security situation has deteriorated in many parts of the country in recent months. Several clashes have been reported between Mai-Mai groups and the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC)—i.e., government forces—in North and South Kivu provinces. Violence in the Kasai, the area in south-central DRC, has continued as well, marked by intercommunal conflict and fighting between government forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia. On 9 October, two UN peacekeepers were killed and 18 others were wounded during an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist rebel group, on a base of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in North Kivu. Council members condemned the attack in a 10 October press statement.
Insecurity has contributed to the dire humanitarian situation in the country. According to the Secretary-General’s recent MONUSCO report, some 3.8 million people are internally displaced in the DRC, approximately 621,700 Congolese refugees have fled the country, and approximately 7.7 million people in the DRC suffer acute hunger.
The Secretary-General’s report on the strategic review of MONUSCO was published on 29 September. In light of financial constraints that have reduced the mission’s size, the review called for MONUSCO to focus on two strategic priorities: 1.) supporting implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement; and 2.) protecting civilians and monitoring and reporting human rights. It maintained that while “changes under way in MONUSCO will yield efficiencies…member states should exercise caution in making further cuts to the Mission’s budget that may compromise its ability to deliver on its core priorities.”
On 11 October, Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, briefed the Council. Referring to the delays in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement, he noted that “a climate of political uncertainty and tension” has re-emerged. In describing the difficult security situation in the country, Sidikou underscored the UN’s concern “about the fact that journalists, political opponents and civil society activists continue to be subject to intimidation, harassment and violence, mostly in connection with their activities and the expression of their opinions concerning the political process”. In light of the recently lowered troop ceiling and budget cuts, he said MONUSCO was in the process of “testing a new strategy of protection by projection, specifically aimed at areas affected by the closure of MONUSCO bases and designed to provide the mission with greater flexibility in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians”. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix participated in the closed consultations following the briefing.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 26 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the DRC, including briefings by the head of MONUSCO, Maman Sambo Sidikou, and Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore. Sidikou expressed shock over the brutality of violations in the Kasai region and the targeting of children, schools and churches. He also expressed concern about the disproportionate use of force by the army.
On 29 September, the HRC adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights by a vote of 45 in favour, one against (the US) and one abstention (Republic of Korea) (A/HRC/RES/36/30). The resolution requests OHCHR to provide an oral update at the HRC’s 37th and 38th sessions and to prepare a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights in the DRC, including in the context of electoral processes, for the HRC’s 39th session. The US, which called for the vote, said that “the congratulatory language” in the resolution “does not reflect the realities on the ground”.
Key Issues and Options
Key issues for the Council include the continuing political impasse (and helping the DRC move toward free and fair elections within a clear time frame), the ongoing violence in different parts of the country, and what implications recent cuts to MONUSCO’s budget and troop strength will have on its operations.
The Council may choose to send stakeholders in the DRC key messages by adopting a resolution or a presidential statement that:
• calls on stakeholders to cooperate and develop a realistic electoral calendar (as it appears more and more unlikely that elections will be held this year) so that timely, free and fair elections can be held;
• condemns the violence in the Kivus 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 undermining implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Although all Council members are worried about the political situation, in recent months there have been different views on the urgency of holding the elections. Some members have maintained that the elections must be held as quickly as possible, worried about the potentially dire consequences of a lack of progress towards holding them. Others have asserted that the timing of the 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 timeframe.
Several Council members emphasise the role that key regional actors, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the AU, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, can play in resolving the political crisis. During its summit on 19-20 August, SADC appointed a Special Envoy to help the DRC prepare for elections, while noting the challenges that have made it unrealistic 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.
During negotiations over resolution 2348, the US and the UK advocated a reduction of troop strength, but many Council members were of the view that plans for downsizing MONUSCO and an eventual exit strategy were premature because of the tenuous political and security situation. During the 11 October briefing, Uruguay, a troop contributor to MONUSCO, stated its concern “about the reduction in MONUSCO troop numbers at a time when…the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is increasing significantly”. Some members caution that the UN country team needs to be accorded the resources required to conduct tasks that are being transferred to it from MONUSCO in light of the recent cuts in the mission’s budget and staffing.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Egypt chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on the DRC
|Security Council Resolution|
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2348||The Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2018.|
|2 October 2017 S/2017/824||This was the report on MONUSCO.|
|29 September 2017 S/2017/826||This was a special report on the strategic review of MONUSCO.|
|29 September 2017 S/2017/825||This was a report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework of the DRC and the region.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|11 October 2017 S/PV.8067||This was a briefing on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|10 October 2017 SC/13022||This condemned the killing of two UN peacekeepers and the wounding of 18 in North Kivu by the Allied Democratic Forces on 9 October 2017.|