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 may also choose to discuss the DRC more broadly as post-electoral developments and the Ebola epidemic continue to unfold.
The mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) expires on 20 December 2019.
Key Recent Developments
It has now been over 100 days since Félix Tshisekedi became president of the DRC, and work to form a government continues. Disagreements between Tshisekedi’s coalition and former President Joseph Kabila’s party have seemed to stall the process, since the two groups have agreed to work together in government. On 20 May, Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba was announced as the new prime minister. This marked a compromise between Tshisekedi and Kabila, as Ilukamba is considered a Kabila ally. In the past, he served as the head of the DRC’s national railway company and as finance minister for former President Mobutu Sese Seko.
The Council met to discuss MONUSCO and the Secretary-General’s report on 18 March, during which briefings were provided by Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui and Anny Tenga Modi, executive director of Afia Mamaa, a civil society organisation. Zerrougui commended the involvement of the Council in the DRC during the past year, especially in regard to elections. She said the situation was far calmer than in December and January, and highlighted Tshisekedi’s efforts in support of peace, rule of law, democracy, and the protection and promotion of human rights, such as the release of political prisoners.
On 29 March, the Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 20 December through resolution 2463, maintaining the current troop ceiling and strategic priorities. It also added the requirement that a strategic review of MONUSCO be completed by 20 October, leading to a plan for a phased, progressive and comprehensive exit strategy. During the adoption meeting, the DRC’s representative requested the sanctions regime to designate the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) as a terrorist group.
At press time, 1,920 cases of Ebola and 1,281 deaths had been confirmed, since August 2018. These include at least 99 health workers who were infected, of whom 34 died. The current concern is the high fatality rate, which hovers around 66 percent.
The outbreak remains limited to eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, but countries in the region are on high alert, especially given the continued large movements of people due to conflict in eastern DRC. On 13 May the EU announced an additional 5 million euros in funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners. Response centres continue to be targets of violence due to extreme mistrust by communities of healthcare workers and the causes of the Ebola crisis at large. A WHO doctor was killed in April in an attack on a hospital in Butembo.
Last year’s renewal of the DRC sanctions regime was little changed and continued to affirm that sanctions will apply to individuals and entities designated by the committee that meet criteria outlined in previous resolutions. These include engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the DRC as well as planning, directing, sponsoring or participating in attacks against MONUSCO peacekeepers or UN personnel, including members of the Group of Experts. According to its report published in December 2018, there were 35 individuals and nine entities on the committee’s sanctions list.
Resolution 2463 welcomed the work of the UN team deployed by the Secretary-General to assist the Congolese authorities in their investigation into the March 2017 killing of two members of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee Group of Experts—Michael Sharp (US) and Zaida Catalán (Sweden-Chile)—and the four Congolese nationals accompanying them, and called on the authorities to ensure that all perpetrators are brought to justice and held accountable.
In May, the sanctions committee visited the DRC and the region. All members of the Council were represented. Because the new government had not been formed, engagement with government officials was limited. On 24 May the committee met with the Group of Experts to discuss their final report.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 40th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held a high-level interactive dialogue on 19 March on human rights in the DRC. Presenting the High Commissioner’s report (A/HRC/40/47), Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that OHCHR remained deeply concerned about continuing intercommunal violence in the country. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the team leader of the international experts on the situation of human rights in the Kasai region, told the HRC that although the situation in Kasai had stabilised, “the crisis was far from over [as] militias were still active in the province, forced labour was rife, and the numbers affected by sexual slavery were greater than initially thought, as were the numbers of child soldiers”. Zerrougui also briefed. In April, the UN Joint Human Rights Office documented 569 human rights violations throughout the DRC, a significant increase as compared to the previous two months.
Key Issues and Options
The pressing issue in June is the need to renew the sanctions regime before it expires on 1 July. The Council can use the sanctions resolution to reiterate its main messages about the need to see political progress on the ground after elections. It can also threaten to impose further sanctions or target those who act to undermine the stability of the DRC.
It seems likely that given the continued instability of DRC politics and ongoing violence, there may not be significant changes to the sanctions regime. However, some 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee members who participated in the May visit came away with the impression that more should be done to protect the country’s natural resources from illicit and conflict-fuelling exploitation. More listing criteria relative to this issue could be discussed.
The Council may, in coordination with regional actors, reiterate its call on all stakeholders to remain committed to translating calls for stability and institutional reform into practice.
The Council could choose to visit the DRC to gather information ahead of any decision to revise MONUSCO’s mandate in December. However, it seems unlikely they would visit before the results of the strategic review.
While resolution 2463 was ultimately adopted unanimously, the negotiations were contentious. Council members agreed that the DRC authorities should work towards the stabilisation and strengthening of the capacity of state institutions and that the UN and regional organisations should help in this regard.
But there have been disagreements over the future of MONUSCO and how such a future should be created. South Africa, since beginning its term on the Council this year, has played a significant role in discussions of the situation in the DRC, with mandate duration a particular concern. During negotiations, it advocated a 12-month renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate as important for regional stability, and some other members supported this position. The nine-month renewal was the compromise achieved.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Kuwait chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 March 2019S/RES/2463||The MONUSCO mandate was renewed through this resolution until 20 December 2019. By that point, a strategic review will have taken place to determine the future of MONUSCO.|
|8 March 2019S/2019/218||S/2019/218 (7 March 2019) covered the period from 4 January to 8 March 2019.|