Great Lakes Region
Expected Council Action
In April, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Said Djinnit will brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region (PSC Framework).
Key Recent Developments
The deplorable security situation in eastern DRC has taken another turn for the worse. In response to an upsurge in violent activities by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group, in North Kivu—including a deadly attack on Tanzanian peacekeepers on 7 December 2017 that resulted in 15 peacekeepers killed, 53 wounded and one who remains missing—Uganda and the DRC have launched an extensive military campaign against rebel groups in the region. One effect of the offensive has been an increase in the movement and activity of rebel groups, resulting in more violence and massive displacement of civilians.
Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), briefed the Council on 7 March. She characterised the humanitarian situation in the DRC as “shocking”. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix also participated in the consultations that followed.
The dire humanitarian situation was the focus of a briefing initiated by the Netherlands on 19 March, during which Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, Secretary-General of the Episcopal National Conference of Congo Donatien Nshole, and Coordinator for the Goma-based NGO Encadrement des Femmes Indigènes et des Ménages Vulnérables Jeanine Bandu Bahati briefed the Council.
There continue to be serious concerns on the political front in the DRC. President Joseph Kabila, whose second and last term under the country’s constitution ended in December 2016, remains in office. Under a 31 December 2016 agreement between Kabila and the opposition, elections were to have been held in 2017, but the Independent National Electoral Commission decided that the elections could not be held as agreed because of logistical difficulties. The commission’s revised electoral calendar now calls for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018. The opposition has denounced the revised calendar.
On the initiative of the US, Council members held an Arria-formula meeting on 12 February focused on the DRC elections. Several Council members observed that fulfilling the agreement, releasing political prisoners, ending politically-motivated prosecutions, and respecting freedom of assembly and expression are essential to creating the political space necessary for credible elections. In the 7 March briefing, Zerrougui said that security forces have used excessive means to quash several peaceful anti-Kabila protests since December 2017.
On 27 March, the Council adopted resolution 2409, renewing MONUSCO’s mandate with its current troop levels until 31 March 2019. The resolution calls on all stakeholders in the DRC—including President Joseph Kabila—to swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement in order to proceed without further delay to the preparation of elections on 23 December. It also calls on the DRC to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially that of peaceful assembly, lift the blanket ban on demonstrations, and exercise maximum restraint in responding to protests.
On Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a controversial third term triggered a political crisis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Michel Kafando, and the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Burundi Configuration, Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), briefed the Council on 26 February. Kafando said that despite a calm security situation, many human rights violations were still being reported. He emphasised that the government’s decision to revise the constitution via a referendum in May had hampered economic gains and would not contribute to the conduct of credible elections, planned for 2020. At press time, Council members were negotiating a draft presidential statement on the political situation in Burundi, circulated by France on 1 March.
On 8 December 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2389 on the initiative of then-Council member Egypt, reaffirming that the PSC Framework remains an essential mechanism to achieve durable peace and stability. It invited the Secretary-General “to assess the progress, challenges and shortcomings in the implementation of the Framework, and to present his vision, supported by concrete recommendations, to the Council in his next report”, due by 31 March.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In February, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO)—composed of the Human Rights Division of MONUSCO and OHCHR—released a report on the human rights situation in the month of January. The report documented 744 human rights violations throughout the DRC, which was above the monthly average for 2017 (541 violations). Violations of the right to property constituted the highest number of total violations documented (29 percent), followed by violations of the right to liberty and security of the person (211 violations and 837 victims, including 155 women and 31 children). According to the report, state agents were responsible for 60 percent of all violations.
On 19 March, UNJHRO said in another report that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly was severely restricted and often violently suppressed in the DRC in 2017 and that the trend continues. Between 1 January 2017 and 31 January 2018, at least 47 people were killed by security services and defence forces. Because most demonstrators were peaceful, the report concludes that the use of excessive force—including lethal force—by the authorities was unlawful, unjustified and disproportionate.
During an enhanced interactive dialogue on 20 March, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, provided an oral update on the human rights situation in the DRC. The High Commissioner will submit a comprehensive report on the DRC to the Human Rights Council at its 38th session in June.
Key Issues and Options
In the DRC, with MONUSCO’s mandate renewed, the primary political focus for the Council in the upcoming period will be monitoring the electoral process closely and ensuring that elections take place as scheduled. Timely elections should be free and fair and should take place in an inclusive environment conducive to participation in the political process. Council members may threaten or move to sanction actors who undermine the electoral process. Reviewing the role of Djinnit and whether he can play a bigger political role during the elections period is something the Council could consider.
The Council could choose to visit the DRC to reinforce the importance of free, fair and timely elections and to assess the security situation and MONUSCO’s response to it.
The ongoing violence in different parts of the country and the dire humanitarian situation are of continuing concern, and the protection of civilians remains a top priority for MONUSCO. The Council may want to continue to closely review the performance of contingents and MONUSCO’s deployment and protection strategy.
Council and Wider Dynamics
All Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis in the DRC and the security and humanitarian situations. They also maintain that the Council should closely follow and engage on the DRC in 2018. The MONUSCO mandate negotiations reflected a consensus about the imperative of holding the elections on 23 December without further delays, in alignment with the position of regional actors.
In principle, they also agree that elections should be free, fair and inclusive, but as elections near, differences may emerge regarding how far the Council can and should go in urging the government and other stakeholders to take certain actions to this effect. This mainly reflects disagreements over how to define the political crisis—as a constitutional issue or one with wider national and regional implications—and the appropriate response..
On the Great Lakes, one issue that was discussed during the negotiations on resolution 2389 was the role of Djinnit, particularly in light of the Secretary-General’s recommendation in a letter to the Council on 4 October 2016 that the role of the Special Envoy be expanded beyond issues relating to the PSC Framework. Though some Council members thought this warranted consideration, the Council in its response only said that it looked forward to further discussion of the recommendation, as several Council members felt that further elaboration of the financial and organisational ramifications of the recommendation was required. Ultimately, the Council did not follow up on the recommendation to expand the Special Envoy’s role, as some members did not see any advantage in expanding his office or justification for greater expenditures. These members made it clear during the negotiations that they would not now accept a text that potentially expands the Special-Envoy’s role, despite the fact that other Council members feel that this idea warrants consideration.
France is the penholder on the DRC and Burundi, and Kuwait chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES REGION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 March 2018 S/RES/2409||This was a resolution that renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019.|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2389||This resolution was on the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region.|
|1 March 2018 S/2018/174||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO.|
|25 January 2018 S/2018/89||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Burundi.|
|15 February 2018 S/2018/128||This was the Secretary-General’s report on progress in the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement in the DRC.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 March 2018 S/PV.8207||This was a briefing on the humanitarian situation in the DRC.|
|7 March 2018 S/PV.8198||This was a briefing on the progress in the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement and the latest Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO. Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui briefed the Council.|
|26 February 2018 S/PV.8189||This was a briefing by Special Envoy Michel Kafando on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Burundi. The chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Burundi Configuration, Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland) also briefed the Council.|
|Security Council Letters|
|21 October 2016 S/2016/892||This was a letter by the President of the Security Council to the Secretary-General concerning the mandate of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.|
|4 October 2016 S/2016/891||This was a Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council on the mandate of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.|