Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is due to renew the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. 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.
The mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) expires on 31 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The deplorable security situation in the east persists. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) Islamist rebel group—responsible for the deadly attack on Tanzanian peacekeepers on 7 December 2017 in which 15 peacekeepers were killed, 53 wounded and one remains missing—continues to wreak havoc in North Kivu. On 21 May, the group reportedly killed ten people and wounded two others in an attack on the town of Mbau, in the Beni region.
In Ituri, notably in the Djugu area, more than 260 people have died and more than 200,000 have fled their homes since December 2017 amid conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. The situation in the Kasai region remains a concern as well. 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. Despite a lull in the fighting, some 3.8 million people, including 2.3 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 400,000 children are severely malnourished and at risk of death, according to an 11 May statement by UNICEF.
The dire humanitarian situation was the focus of a briefing 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. Council members issued a press statement on 22 March, expressing their concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
There continue to be serious concerns on the political front in the DRC. President Joseph Kabila, whose second and final term (under the country’s constitution) ended in December 2016, remains in office. According to an agreement reached between Kabila and the opposition on 31 December 2016, elections were to be held by the end of 2017, and Kabila was not to run for a third term nor initiate amendments to the constitution. He has refrained from declaring his intentions over the last year, although in the past month, members of his government have said that he would not run for re-election. Citing logistical difficulties that prevented the elections from being held on 5 November 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) published a new electoral calendar for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018.
On 27 March, the Council adopted resolution 2409, renewing MONUSCO’s mandate and keeping its current troop levels. The resolution called on all stakeholders in the DRC, including Kabila, to swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement in order to proceed without further delay to the preparation of the 23 December elections. It also called on the DRC to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially those of peaceful assembly; to release all political prisoners; lift the blanket ban on demonstrations; and exercise maximum restraint in responding to protests.
Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui briefed the Council on 21 May under “any other business” via video teleconference, particularly on the latest report of the Secretary-General on political and technical progress towards the holding of elections in the DRC. The report noted that, on the one hand, substantial progress has been made in preparation for elections and several important benchmarks have been met. On the other hand, significant challenges remain on the political front, where little has been done to address the lack of political space, posing a threat to the holding of credible and inclusive elections. For example, the ban on peaceful demonstrations imposed in September 2016 whose lifting the Council urged in resolution 2409 remains in place. In elements to the press released after the meeting, Council members encouraged the DRC to lift the ban and underscored the need to do everything possible to hold transparent, credible and inclusive elections.
An issue of increasing concern that may amplify the security and political difficulties is the recent outbreak of Ebola, with 54 suspected cases of infection and 25 deaths reported by 27 May. Some of the cases confirmed occurred in Mbandaka, a city of over one million people. At press time, the WHO has refrained from declaring an international public health emergency, saying that the situation can be contained if addressed promptly.
On 23 March, Zerrougui and a representative of the Joint Mission Analysis Centre of MONUSCO, which is responsible for monitoring the arms embargo, briefed the sanctions committee on the security situation via video teleconference. A representative of the UN Mine Action Service also briefed the committee.
On 30 April the committee held a formal meeting to discuss the DRC’s efforts in the fight against sexual violence and child recruitment. Following the formal meeting, which was attended by the DRC, the committee met in informal consultations with Pramila Patten, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and a representative of the office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
The committee met on 18 May to discuss the final report of its Group of Experts. The report noted that armed groups and criminal networks continue to use natural resources and levy illicit taxation. It also reported that violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law have taken place in Beni and Djugu. It signalled that some states have not notified the committee regarding delivery of arms and related materiel to the DRC, as required by resolution 2360.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 19 March, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC released a report documenting killings and other serious human rights violations due to the use of excessive force by security services and defence forces in response to mass protests between 1 January 2017 and 31 January 2018, resulting in the deaths of at least 47 people, including women and children. According to the report, there were indications that Congolese security services attempted to cover up these serious human rights violations by removing the bodies of victims and obstructing the work of national and international observers.
During the 37th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), the HRC held an enhanced interactive dialogue on 20 March on the human rights situation in the DRC with Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour. He said that an increase in human rights violations in the country was largely due to the widespread violations of political rights and fundamental freedoms in relation to the electoral process, combined with intensified inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence, as well as a proliferation of armed groups in several provinces. Gilmour stressed the need for the HRC to “retain a sharp focus on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in the country, especially in the context of the electoral process”.
Key Issues and Options
The primary political issue for the Council in the upcoming period is the importance of elections taking place as scheduled and that they are free and fair. The Council may choose to issue a presidential or press statement calling on the DRC to take action to guarantee that elections are held in a safe environment conducive to full participation in the political process.
Additionally, the Council may, in coordination with regional actors, reiterate its call on all stakeholders to remain committed to the electoral calendar as the only way forward and to refrain from violence.
The immediate issue for the Council in June is renewing the sanctions regime. The Council can use the sanctions resolution to reiterate its main messages about the electoral process. It can also threaten to impose sanctions or move to sanction actors who undermine the process.
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.
Council and Wider Dynamics
All Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis and the dire security situation. There is consensus about the imperative of holding the elections on 23 December without further delays, in alignment with the position of regional actors. There is also general agreement that the Council should remain focused on the DRC throughout the year, including through a possible Council mission, which may take place this summer. Differences between Council members persist, however, regarding the nature of the political crisis, with some seeing it as a constitutional issue and others as one with wider national and regional implications. Some Council members are concerned that while logistical preparations for the elections are meeting their benchmarks on the whole, little has been done by the DRC to guarantee that elections will be free, fair and inclusive.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Kuwait chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 March 2018 S/RES/2409||This was a resolution that renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019.|
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2360||This renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.|
|1 March 2018 S/2018/174||This was the Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 March 2018 S/PV.8207||This was a briefing on the humanitarian situation in the DRC.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|22 March 2018 SC/13260||Council members expressed their concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the DRC.|
|Security Council Letters|
|1 May 2018 S/2018/412||This was a report on political and technical progress towards the holding of elections in the DRC.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|11 May 2018 SC/13333||This was a press release on the 30 April committee meeting with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence, Children and Armed Conflict, Pramila Patten, and a representative of the office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.|
|5 April 2018 SC/13280||This was a press release on the 23 March committee meeting with Zerrougui and representatives of the Joint Mission Analysis Centre of MONUSCO and the UN Mine Action Service.|