March 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2020
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AFRICA

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In March, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The MONUSCO mandate expires on 20 December. The 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime expires on 1 July.

Key Recent Developments

On 19 December 2019, the Security Council adopted resolution 2502 renewing MONUSCO’s mandate for one year. The resolution went through several rounds of negotiations before it was adopted unanimously. It maintains the dual strategic priorities of the mission: protection of civilians and supporting the stabilisation and strengthening of DRC state institutions. The resolution also requests the Secretary-General to work with the DRC government to create an exit strategy for the mission, to be proposed to the Council no later than 20 October. Resolution 2502 decreased the troop ceiling from 16,215 military personnel to 14,000 military personnel and increased police personnel from 391 to 591. It maintained the numbers of military observers and staff officers. It also included a line stipulating the increase “of an additional 360 personnel of formed police units provided they are deployed in replacement of military personnel”. Because of members’ divergent views on the continued efficacy of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), language was added to further stress the FIB’s alignment with MONUSCO’s overall mandate, “underlin[ing] that the entire MONUSCO force, including the Intervention Brigade, must prioritise the implementation of its protection of civilians mandate”. The FIB’s future will be a recurring issue in any mandate renewal.

An informal interactive dialogue, requested by the US, was held on 14 January. Its stated goal was bringing together various stakeholders to discuss how to support the DRC government in its efforts to stabilise the eastern region. Security Council members, Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region Huang Xia, and member states from the region also participated. President Félix Tshisekedi has been active in trying to increase cooperation and transparency between the DRC and its neighbours. Tshisekedi led several visits and attended regional conferences with neighbouring countries and has apparently stressed the need to “build bridges, not walls” with the DRC’s neighbours. Within the first six months of his term, Tshisekedi travelled to Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Among the ideas discussed was a unified strategy for these countries to address the issue of armed combatants in the DRC. The details remain uncertain and could range from information-sharing to coordinated military operations.

Eastern DRC remains volatile, especially since the Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo (FARDC) in October 2019 launched a new offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that originated in Uganda. In November and December 2019, Council members held two meetings in consultations to discuss the increase in violence, including public backlash against MONUSCO that involved destruction of MONUSCO property. The FARDC operations have continued into 2020, and the recent instability has contributed to a worsening of the humanitarian situation in an already fragile region.

Council members met on 20 January under “any other business” to discuss the independent assessment report, prepared by Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, on the protection of civilians and neutralisation of armed groups in Beni and Mabasa Territories. Cruz travelled to eastern DRC in December 2019 in response to criticisms of MONUSCO’s fulfilment of its protection of civilians mandate. The report, released on 16 January, made several recommendations for how the UN could improve its role in the protection of civilians in those two territories. Prime among them was the call for more proactive, effective, and mobile actions by MONUSCO which, the assessment suggests, would require more operational intelligence and a stronger relationship with the FARDC. In general, Council members were receptive to Cruz’s assessment. The UN Department of Peace Operations will use the assessment’s recommendations to develop an action plan for implementation in the coming weeks.

In addition, Ebola remains a worrying issue in this area. By February, the Ebola outbreak had surpassed 3,300 confirmed cases and more than 2,250 deaths in the DRC since August 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO released a statement on 12 February that, while noting “an overall encouraging trend in case incidence and geographic spread”, confirms that it will continue to designate Ebola as a public health emergency of international concern. According to the statement, WHO was worried that if the designation was withdrawn there might be “adverse consequences for the response efforts through diminishing focus”. Additionally, an ongoing measles epidemic has killed over 6,000 people since the beginning of 2019.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 10 January, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC released a report describing killings, rapes and other forms of violence that may amount to crimes against humanity chiefly committed by the militant Lendu armed group targeting the Hema community in the far north-eastern province of Ituri over the preceding two years. The violence resulted in at least 701 deaths, and mass displacements. On 29 January, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement following her five-day visit to the DRC, including to Ituri, saying “the abuses inflicted on the Hema have been horrific” and that “displacement on that scale would be front-page news in many other parts of the world”. The High Commissioner also met with Tshisekedi and other officials during her visit. During its 43rd session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the DRC on 17 March, during which it will consider oral updates by the High Commissioner and the team of international experts on the situation in Kasai.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 2 December 2019 the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee met to consider the midterm report of the Group of Experts on the DRC, with Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi (Kuwait) in the chair for the final time. Additionally, he spoke on 17 December during the annual briefing by outgoing chairs of subsidiary bodies of the Security Council. In his summary of the work of the committee, he highlighted his visit as chair to the DRC in May 2019. He also noted that the committee had briefings from the UN Mine Action Service, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Since 1 January, Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) has chaired the committee. The first meeting under his leadership was held on 21 February.

Key Issues and Options

With MONUSCO’s mandate renewed until December, the Council will continue to monitor the situation on the ground, especially the ongoing violence and the Ebola outbreak. The Council is expected to assess the role and future of MONUSCO ahead of the next renewal of the mission’s mandate in December. Before then, several reports are expected that will further inform Council members’ decisions on the way forward.

Ahead of any additional mandate changes in December, Council members could choose to conduct a visiting mission to the DRC in order to have conversations with local stakeholders about the future of MONUSCO. This could also help the DRC and the Secretary-General in their elaboration of the requested withdrawal benchmarks before 20 October.

Council Dynamics

Despite differences on the best way to proceed with the future of MONUSCO, in the end Council members were able to come together and pass resolution 2502 unanimously. In general, Council members have maintained an optimistic view of the DRC’s political situation, with most of their concern focused on violence in the east and Ebola.

The March meeting will be the first opportunity for the five new elected members of the Council—Estonia, Niger, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Viet Nam—to express their opinions publicly as Council members on the situation in the DRC.

The penholder on the DRC is France. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC

Security Council Resolutions
19 December 2019S/RES/2502 The Council extended MONUSCO mandate until 20 December 2020.
26 June 2019S/RES/2478 The Council renewed the 1533 sanctions regime until 1 July 2020.
Security Council Meeting Records
19 December 2019S/PV.8692 At this meeting, Council members voted unanimously to renew MONUSCO’s mandate for one year.
17 December 2019S/PV.8688 This was an annual briefing held by the outgoing chairs of the Security Council Subsidiary Bodies.
Sanctions Committee Documents
20 December 2019S/2019/974 This was the midterm report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.