December 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 November 2019
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In December, the Security Council will need to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) before it expires on 20 December.

The 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime expires on 1 July 2020.

Key Recent Developments

On 25 October, Council members received the independent strategic review as requested by resolution 2463 of 29 March. The resolution asked for an assessment of the continued challenges in the DRC and for the reviewers to articulate “a phased, progressive and comprehensive exit strategy”. The review team, led by Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute (IPI) Youssef Mahmoud, undertook two visits to the DRC: one from 24 June to 18 July and another in September. Due to the fact that the new DRC government was only established on 26 August, seven months after the inauguration of President Félix Tshisekedi and eight months after the elections, the team was unable to consult with its members on its two field visits. In an 8 November letter to the President of the Security Council, the DRC Permanent Representative informed the Council that the newly formed government had just established a committee to consider the independent strategic review of MONUSCO and begun conducting internal consultations on MONUSCO’s future mandate. The letter said that following the consultations, the government would transmit to the Council a memorandum stating its position.

The review analyses the political challenges and opportunities in the DRC and evaluates MONUSCO’s current mandate. It outlines how to have a responsible and phased drawdown and how MONUSCO should be adjusted accordingly. The review also includes best/worst case scenarios and options for several types of future MONUSCO configurations. The strategic review recommends that the timeline for a MONUSCO exit be an absolute minimum of three years, with its departure at the end of 2022. However, the review includes a significant caveat, namely “a concern that the three-year transition period may be too short to even begin addressing the key structural drivers of conflict in the DRC”, and lists several “red lines” that, if crossed, should pause any exit process. Perhaps most controversially for some members, the strategic review assesses that the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) “has not measured up to the expectations of its current mandate” and therefore recommends renewing its mandate for no more than one additional year. The review warns that “a budget-driven, precipitated exit would be a disastrous choice” and advocates an exit strategy that is responsive to conditions on the ground.

In his letter transmitting the review report, Secretary-General António Guterres said that he may send additional comments and recommendations ahead of the mandate renewal. It seems that there has been an effort to bring forward the submission of the periodic report on MONUSCO, which was due at the end of December, to the end of November. His comments may come attached to that.

Council members discussed the strategic review with Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on 13 November in closed consultations. This was the first opportunity for the UN Secretariat formally to express their views on the upcoming mandate renewal discussions and the strategic review. In his remarks, Lacroix welcomed the work done by the review team but did not explicitly support its findings. He indicated support for a slightly reduced troop ceiling while at the same time advocating for a temporary increase in police components, the better to respond to increased criminality in some areas.  Lacroix strongly differed with the review’s faulting of the FIB, calling the Brigade critical and advocating for it to remain in the DRC.  He urged Council members to be guided by conditions on the ground when determining the pace of MONUSCO’s drawdown. After the meeting, the UK, as president of the Council for November, read out elements to the press, noting that members of the Council had been briefed by Lacroix on both MONUSCO and the independent strategic review. The elements say that Council members shared the analysis that MONUSCO should maintain its focus on the protection of civilians and took note of the review’s recommendations. The elements also welcome the DRC’s creation of a national committee for the strategic review of MONUSCO.

Eastern DRC remains destabilised. On 1 November, government forces launched a new offensive in Beni and surrounding areas targeting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who have been responsible for high numbers of deaths in recent years. On 16 November, the ADF reportedly responded to the offensive by killing at least 15 civilians in and around the village of Mbau in eastern DRC. Similar such raids have continued. The situation escalated and beginning on 20 November there were violent demonstrations against MONUSCO by the local population, which feels unprotected. On 25 November protesters damaged the perimeter wall and entered the MONUSCO compound in Boikene. As a result, the Secretariat requested a meeting under “any other business” of Council members on 26 November. By 18 November, the Ebola outbreak had surpassed 3,200 confirmed cases and 2,100 deaths in the DRC since August 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi (Kuwait) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee and is likely to preside over its final meeting of the year on 4 December, when the Committee will discuss the Group of Experts’ mid-term report. The report’s deadline is 30 December, but it seems likely that it will be submitted before the end of November.

Key Issues and Options

Now that the independent strategic review has been published, the Council will want to consider it along with ongoing political and security developments when deciding the future of MONUSCO. Council members will need to decide how closely to follow the recommendations of the strategic review. At press time, no public meeting was scheduled ahead of the mandate renewal, but the Council could decide to hold a briefing or consultations in the period leading up to the mandate renewal.

The Council is especially eager to hear from the DRC government how they foresee MONUSCO’s future. France has proposed holding an informal meeting at its mission once the DRC transmits the memorandum stating its position. The Council could also consider holding an informal interactive dialogue to bring together representatives from the DRC, the strategic review team, and the Secretariat to exchange views in private.

Council Dynamics

While the Council had been united in their positive view of Tshisekedi’s efforts in the DRC since his election, as negotiations begin on the mandate to renew MONUSCO, there are several flashpoints on which Council members are likely to diverge. Some members have been adamant about their wish to implement an exit strategy for MONUSCO once the electoral cycle was complete. Others want to see any change guided by the situation on the ground and are urging a more cautious approach. There is likely to be extensive discussion on whether to have a strict timeline for drawdown – for example, the end of 2022 as mentioned in the independent strategic review—or allow the drawdown to be guided more by, in the classic expression, “end states rather than end dates”.

South Africa, in particular, is worried that a drawdown that moves too quickly will undermine progress that has been achieved. It continues to support a role for the FIB, which could be a roadblock in negotiations. Some Council members are less enthusiastic about the FIB’s effectiveness and would prefer to see MONUSCO restructured without it.

All members agree that having ownership from the DRC government itself is crucial and they are anxious to hear what the government has to say. There is also some agreement from members on the need to standardise and streamline the MONUSCO mandate, currently one of the largest UN missions.

The penholder on the DRC is France. Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi (Kuwait) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee; on 1 January 2020, he is likely to be succeeded by Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger).

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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 Letters
12 November 2019S/2019/870 This was a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo addressed to the President of the Security Council concerning the recent independent strategic review of MONUSCO.
24 October 2019S/2019/842 This letter transmitted the independent strategic review of MONUSCO.
Security Council Press Statements
14 October 2019SC/13985 Council members welcomed the inauguration of the new coalition Government. Council members also express concern about the situation in eastern DRC and condemnation of all armed groups. Council members recalled the importance of the DRC and its neighbours to work together to tackle insecurity in eastern DRC with more integrated approaches and welcomed recent steps toward this by the parties involved. Finally, Council members reiterated concern about the ongoing humanitarian situation, including the Ebola crisis.

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