Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In July, Special Representative Leila Zerrougui will brief the Council on the latest report on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Secretary-General may brief the Council after his planned July visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); a civil society representative may brief as well. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to attend the consultations that follow.
The DRC is also expected to be discussed during the joint annual meeting of Council members with the AU Peace and Security Council.
MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The deplorable security situation in the east persists. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) Islamist rebel group continues to wreak havoc in North Kivu. Between 24 and 26 May, the ADF reportedly killed 11 civilians in the localities of Mbau-Kamango and Eringeti. In clashes with the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) that followed, five soldiers and 14 rebels were killed.
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. Between 1 January and 4 June, nearly 84,000 Congolese fled to Uganda, though the flow of refugees has slowed considerably since April.
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. 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.
Kabila has refrained from declaring his intentions over the last year. On 7 June, parties from the ruling coalition formed a “grand political electoral coalition” named the Common Front for Congo (FCC), designed to “provide support for a single candidate for the presidential elections.” Kabila was named the FCC’s “moral authority”. On 12 June, however, Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala said that Kabila would respect the constitution and not seek another term. According to the electoral calendar, presidential candidates must register between 23 July and 8 August.
Another figure who may re-enter politics in the DRC is former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. The ICC convicted Bemba in 2016 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed as the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo when his forces fought in an attempted coup in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. On 8 June, the ICC overturned the verdict on appeal. Bemba was released from custody while he awaits his sentence on separate charges of bribing witnesses, expected on 4 July.
The latest Secretary-General’s report on political and technical progress towards the holding of elections in the DRC was released on 1 June. It noted considerable progress in respect to technical and legislative preparations for elections. At the same time, it expressed concern over the lack of implementation of confidence-building measures and in opening political space, considered critical to building consensus and creating an environment conducive to credible, transparent and inclusive elections. It called on the DRC government to lift its ban on political demonstrations to allow people to freely exercise their political and civil rights. Zerrougui briefed the Council on the report on 19 June under “any other business” via video teleconference.
The Council also urged the DRC to lift the ban on political demonstrations in resolution 2409 of 27 March and called on the DRC to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially those of peaceful assembly, and to exercise maximum restraint in responding to protests.
At press time, the Council was negotiating a presidential statement focused on the electoral process.
An ongoing issue of concern is the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, with 59 suspected cases and 28 deaths reported by 20 June. Some of the confirmed cases occurred in Mbandaka, a city of over one million people. On 13 June, the Director-General of the World Health Organization said the situation has stabilised but is far from over.
At press time, the Council was scheduled to adopt a resolution on 29 June, renewing the sanctions regime until 1 July 2019 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2019.
Human Rights-Related Developments
A 4 June joint statement by the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the special rapporteur on human rights defenders, and the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression urged the DRC to conduct a comprehensive review of a draft bill aimed at reducing the number of non-governmental organisations operating in the country. The statement voiced concern over provisions that impose burdensome requirements on NGOs for registration, as well as restrictions on access to domestic and foreign funding and on the possibility for foreign organisations to engage in political activities. During its 38th session, which began on 18 June and is scheduled to run until 6 July, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an enhanced interactive dialogue to consider the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the Kasaï regions (A/HRC/38/31). At press time, the HRC was expected to adopt a resolution at the end of the session on technical assistance to the DRC and accountability concerning the events in the Kasaï regions.
Key Issues and Options
The primary political issue for the Council in the upcoming period is ensuring that the elections take 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 public participation in the political process, including reiterating its message on lifting the ban on political demonstrations.
Additionally, the Council may, in coordination with regional actors and particularly the AU, reiterate its call on all stakeholders to remain committed to the electoral calendar as the only way forward, and to refrain from violence.
The Council can utilise the sanctions regime by amending the listing criteria to include acts that hinder a free and fair electoral process and move to sanction actors who undermine the electoral process.
The Council is looking to visit the DRC later this summer to reinforce the importance of free, fair and timely elections and to assess the security situation and MONUSCO’s response to it. The Council has visited the DRC 13 times, with the first visit in 2000 and the most recent in November 2016.
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 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 late this summer.
Differences between Council members persist, however, regarding their assessment of 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 of these latter Council members, such as France and the US, have publicly called on Kabila to step down. Some Council members are concerned that while logistical preparations for the elections are, on the whole, progressing as scheduled, the DRC has done little 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 Resolution
|27 March 2018 S/RES/2409
|This was a resolution that renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019.
|1 June 2018 S/2018/528
|This was the Secretary-General’s 30-day report on the progress in the electoral process and implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement in the DRC.
|Security Council Meeting Record
|19 March 2018 S/PV.8207
|This was a briefing on the humanitarian situation in the DRC.
|Sanctions Committee Documents
|8 June 2018 SC/13373
|This was a press release drawing attention to a recommendation contained in the Group of Experts’ final report, concerning the delivery of military material to the DRC.
|1 June 2018 SC/13363
|This was a press statement about the meeting at which the Group of Experts on the DRC introduced their final report.
|20 May 2018 S/2018/531
|This was the final report by the Group of Experts on the DRC.