Great Lakes Region
Expected Council Action
Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia is expected to provide his bi-annual briefing to the Council in April on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSC Framework) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region, and other recent developments in the region.
Key Recent Developments and Council Dynamics
The Council continues to follow several country issues in the Great Lakes region, including the DRC, Burundi and the Central African Republic (CAR).
In the DRC, President Félix Tshisekedi has been active in promoting cooperation between the DRC and its neighbours. This regional outreach comes in the context of efforts to stabilise the eastern DRC, which remains volatile. The issue was most recently discussed at an informal interactive dialogue, held on 14 January, during which Special Envoy Xia also briefed. The Council held two meetings in consultations in November and December 2019 to discuss an increase in violence in the area.
While maintaining the dual strategic priorities of protecting civilians and supporting the stabilisation and strengthening of state institutions, the one-year renewal of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) mandate on 19 December 2019 in resolution 2502 also included a request to the Secretary-General to work with the government to create an exit strategy for the mission, due by 20 October. In general, Council members have maintained a positive view of the DRC’s political situation, with concern focusing mainly on violence and the ongoing risk of re-emergence of Ebola in the DRC’s east. Despite differences on the best way to proceed with MONUSCO in the future, especially its Force Intervention Brigade, the Council adopted resolution 2502 unanimously.
In Burundi, the political situation remains unsettled. Presidential elections—the first since 2015, when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza won a controversial third term—are scheduled for 20 May. Nkurunziza has said that he does not plan to run. On 26 February, Council members held an informal interactive dialogue (IID) on the situation in Burundi, during which Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita briefed. This was originally envisaged as a formal public briefing followed by consultations, but the president of the Council in February—Belgium—decided instead to hold an IID, which allows for non-Council members to participate in an informal discussion. Though Burundi was invited, it did not participate in the meeting. During the meeting, some Council members emphasised the need for the upcoming elections to be held in an inclusive, peaceful and transparent manner.
At a briefing of the Human Rights Council on 9 March, its Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (COIB) warned that the situation in the country had worsened. The COIB highlighted attacks against opposition politicians and their families as well as “killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment and rape against actual or alleged political opposition members”. COIB members also reiterated the Commission’s concern about the humanitarian situation, including the 336,000 Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Security Council members remain divided on Burundi. China and Russia have said that the country no longer belongs on the Council’s agenda, arguing that the situation is not a threat to international peace and security; the UK, amongst others, maintains that the country should remain on the agenda, given the political situation and human rights violations.
Regarding the CAR, there has been an overall decrease in violence since the Political Peace Agreement was signed on 6 February 2019 in Bangui, according to the Secretary-General’s 14 February report. However, violent incidents and human rights violations continue, and full implementation of the peace agreement has been delayed because of a lack of good faith by armed groups, some 14 of whom signed the agreement with the CAR government. One of those groups, the anti-Balaka, is reportedly responsible for the 15 March death of a UN peacekeeper who was part of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). He was killed when elements of the anti-Balaka launched an attack on the central CAR town of Grimari. In a separate incident on 15 March, another peacekeeper was injured when his patrol on the Ndélé-Birao axis came under attack by elements of two armed groups. Finally, a CAR staff member of MINUSCA was also killed in Ndélé on 7 March. The Security Council issued a press statement on 16 March condemning the attacks.
CAR’s fragile situation was discussed in a Council briefing and consultations on 20 February. According to OCHA, approximately 2.6 million people require humanitarian assistance, with 669,000 civilians internally displaced and another 593,000 people seeking refuge outside CAR. Presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for December 2020 and early 2021, and there are concerns about seeing electoral timelines met. At a Council briefing on 25 October 2019, the Special Representative and Head of MINUSCA, Mankeur Ndiaye, warned that “a serious delay in holding the next elections could create a vacuum at the highest echelon of the State and lead to another political transition that… would be harmful to the consolidation of democracy, stability and peace in the Central African Republic”. More recently, during his 20 February briefing, he asked the international community to meet its technical, logistical and financial support so that the elections could be held “within the constitutional time frame”. While all Council members support the Political Peace agreement, there are some differences regarding CAR sanctions. Unlike previous unanimous renewals of the sanctions regime, China and Russia abstained on the Council’s January adoption of resolution 2507, arguing that the Council should do more to lift sanctions on the government.
While the Special Envoy has recently focused on mobilising resources to attract business and investment in the Great Lakes region, his office’s investment and trade conference, scheduled for 18-20 March in Kigali, was cancelled as a precaution in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES REGION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 January 2020S/RES/2507||This was a resolution which renewed the Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime until 31 July 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2020.|
|19 December 2019S/RES/2502||The Council extended MONUSCO mandate until 20 December 2020.|
|14 February 2020S/2020/124||This was a report on MINUSCA|
|24 October 2019S/2019/837||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Burundi.|
|1 October 2019S/2019/783||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|16 March 2020SC/14145||This was a press statement on attacks against MINUSCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 February 2020S/PV.8728||This was a briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2020/124) on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).|
|25 October 2019S/PV.8646||This was a briefing on the latest MINUSCA report.|