October 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2019
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In October, Special Representative and head of mission Leila Zerrougui will brief the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Consultations are expected following the briefing.

The mandate of MONUSCO expires on 20 December, and the 1533 sanctions regime expires on 1 July 2020.

Key Recent Developments

Recent months have seen several new political developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while the dire security situation in the east persists. Seven months after the inauguration of DRC President Félix Tshisekedi, a new government was announced on 26 August. The government includes 23 members from Tshisekedi’s Direction for Change party; the remaining 42 are from former President Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition. (The presidential election, in which Tshisekedi was declared the victor, was held in December 2018.)

In her last briefing to the Council, on 24 July, Zerrougui expressed optimism about Tshisekedi’s intentions. On the security situation in eastern DRC, she said that the levels of violence are increasing in several areas. Attacks by the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continue to exact an intolerable toll on civilians in the east of the country.

Council members adopted a press statement on 1 August welcoming Tshisekedi’s efforts towards reconciliation, peace and stability. They also expressed concern about the deterioration of the security situation in some areas of eastern DRC, particularly in Ituri and North Kivu provinces, and the worrisome humanitarian situation, and condemned all armed groups in Congo and their violations of international humanitarian law.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado said on 20 September that since 1 June, at least 197 civilians have been killed in Ituri in assaults believed to have been carried out by rebels, also resulting in at least 230,000 people displaced in Ituri since June, with another 20,500 displaced in South Kivu. The great majority are living in a dire humanitarian situation.

Secretary-General António Guterres visited the DRC from 30 August to 2 September. At the end of his trip, Guterres said that MONUSCO will increase cooperation with the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) to tackle ADF violence and address wider security concerns. On the future of MONUSCO, Guterres said, “within the framework of MONUSCO’s strategic review, the Security Council will decide on some adjustments that could improve the MONUSCO and its cooperation with the Congolese government, and that in the long run, we will work together with the Government of Congo to create the conditions that will allow, one day, for the UN mission to no longer be necessary”.

Regarding Ebola, as of 24 September the second-largest outbreak of Ebola on record has surpassed 3,050 confirmed cases and 2,100 deaths in the DRC since August 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which declared the crisis a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 17 July. On 30 July, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Germany and South Africa organised an informal interactive dialogue on Ebola in the DRC. David Gressly, UN Ebola Emergency Response Coordinator, briefed, and representatives from the WHO, the AU, OCHA and the DRC participated.

On 2 August, the Council adopted a presidential statement on the Ebola outbreak in which it reiterated its grave concern about the outbreak, condemned attacks and threats against medical and humanitarian personnel, and demanded safe and unhindered access for those personnel to patients and others in need. It stressed that these attacks are hampering response efforts and facilitating the spread of the virus in the DRC and the wider region.

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an enhanced interactive dialogue on 24 September on the DRC report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/42/32). The report, covering June 2018 to May, said that “[m]any violations and abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms were committed during the electoral process”. It also expressed concern over “the situation in conflict-affected areas, where the defence and security forces and armed groups have continued to commit a large number of human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence”, as well as concern over the increase in intercommunal conflict and violence against certain ethnic groups.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 27 August, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met to discuss the proposed programme of work for the Group of Experts.

Key Issues and Options

The results of the strategic review of MONUSCO requested in resolution 2463 of 29 March are currently anticipated by November, which will feed into broader discussions among Council members about any necessary adjustments in MONUSCO’s mandate, which expires on 20 December.

The Council will have to consider the impact on MONUSCO’s future of ongoing political developments, including the formation of the government under Tshisekedi’s leadership and its attitude towards the future presence of MONUSCO, and their effect on stability in the DRC. At the same time, there continues to be little change in the security situation in eastern DRC, and the Council will need to reflect on both of these developments in the upcoming mandate discussion.

The ongoing Ebola epidemic is an aspect of the situation that the Council needs to follow closely. In this context, the Council may consider requesting a briefing from the Ebola Emergency Response Coordinator.

Council Dynamics

At present, Council members are united in their positive view of Tshisekedi’s efforts since he became president to reconcile political tensions in the DRC and to improve relations with the DRC’s neighbours, as well as with MONUSCO and the UN. Some Council members are eager to see this translate into concrete progress on the ground, including in eastern DRC, while others stress the time needed for changes in rhetoric to have a practical impact.

There also seems to be consensus among a wide swath of Council Members on the importance of international efforts to address the Ebola outbreak and the need to prevent the dire security situation in the east from hampering response efforts.

As MONUSCO’s mandate renewal in December approaches, however, it is likely that previous differences in the Council over the appropriate time and pace of MONUSCO’s drawdown will resurface.  The conclusions of the strategic review, as well as the stance of the newly formed government on the future of MONUSCO, are likely to play an important role, as will the views of regional actors. At the same time, some Council members, such as the US, have been adamant in the past about their wish to implement an exit strategy for MONUSCO once the electoral cycle is complete.

France is the penholder on the DRC, and Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi (Kuwait) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

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UN Documents on the DRC

Security Council Resolutions
26 June 2019S/RES/2478 The Council renewed the 1533 sanctions regime until 1 July 2020.
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.
Security Council Presidential Statements
2 August 2019S/PRST/2019/6 Adopted under the agenda item “peace and security in Africa”, this PRST referred to the Ebola outbreak in the DRC and the need to have international cooperation to address it.
Security Council Meeting Records
24 July 2019S/PV.8584 Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, briefed the Council.
Security Council Press Statements
1 August 2019SC/13907 In this press statement, the Council welcomed President Félix Tshisekedi’s efforts towards reconciliation, steps he has taken to open political space, and his initiatives to promote regional cooperation.

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