Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In March, the Security Council will hold a briefing 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
The DRC’s political situation has been in a state of upheaval since early December 2020, when President Félix Tshisekedi announced the end of his ruling coalition with the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), which is affiliated with former DRC president Joseph Kabila. The FCC had controlled two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, and Tshisekedi threatened to dissolve the National Assembly if he was unable to get a majority. On 27 January, a majority of the FCC members of parliament left the FCC to join two opposition parties supporting a newly formed parliamentary majority known as the “Sacred Union” set up by Tshisekedi. National Assembly Speaker Jeanine Mabunda subsequently resigned, as did DRC Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba, along with several other ministers. On 5 February, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, president of the Senate, also resigned. On 15 February, Tshisekedi announced that he had appointed Sama Lukonde Kyenge, a Tshisekedi supporter and former director general of the DRC’s state mining company, as prime minister. At the time of writing, Kyenge had yet to form a government.
Violence in eastern DRC has persisted into the new year, with several reports in early January and February of attacks on numerous villages by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group originating in Uganda. On 1 January, officials from the DRC’s Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) reported that the FARDC, supported by troops from MONUSCO, had regained control from the ADF of the village of Loselose in the Beni territory of North Kivu. Fourteen suspected ADF militants and two FARDC soldiers were killed in the operation. On 14 January, 46 civilians were killed when the ADF launched another attack on a village in the Irumu district. In February, at least two more ADF attacks killed civilians: on 2 February, 12 people died when the ADF raided Mabule village, and on 9 February, ten civilians were reported to have been killed in an attack on a village near the Ugandan border. Since 30 October 2019, the FARDC has increased its military operations against the ADF in an effort to dislodge the group from eastern DRC. On 22 February, Italy’s ambassador to the DRC and two others travelling with him died in an attack on a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy near the eastern city of Goma. They were travelling to the town of Rutshuru to visit a WFP school feeding programme. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 6 February, Tshisekedi became chair of the AU for 2021, taking over the rotating position from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. In his inaugural address to the other AU heads of state, Tshisekedi outlined his priorities, which included addressing the challenges of COVID-19, promoting peace and security on the continent, improving regional integration, and tackling climate change.
DRC authorities announced on 4 February that a resident of the town of Butembo in the country’s North Kivu province had contracted the Ebola virus. Since then, another three cases of Ebola have been identified in Butembo, making this the 12th Ebola outbreak in the DRC. Three months ago, the country declared an end to a previous outbreak, the second worst in its history. On 15 February, the World Health Organization announced that it had launched a vaccination campaign in Butembo and that health care workers were the first to be vaccinated.
Lastly, in January, the Secretary-General announced the appointments of both Bintou Keita (Guinea) as Special Representative and head of MONUSCO to succeed Leila Zerrougui and Khassim Diagne (Senegal) as Deputy Special Representative for Protection and Operations to succeed David Gressly.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC published a report on 2 February, documenting a significant increase in the number of attacks against the civilian population by the ADF in Irumu and Mambasa territory in Ituri province and in Beni territory in North Kivu province. According to the report, at least 849 civilians were killed in these areas in 2020. The report also documented human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed by security and defence forces in the context of their operations against ADF combatants. The Human Rights Council is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue, on 19 March during its 46th session, on oral updates on the DRC from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the team of international experts on the situation in Kasai, as requested in resolution 45/34.
Key Issues and Options
The March briefing will be Keita’s first as Special Representative and MONUSCO head. An issue for the Council is oversight of the mission’s transition, and members will be interested to hear how Keita envisions this transition in light of the updates to the mission’s mandate as outlined in resolution 2556, which was adopted in December 2020. In renewing MONUSCO’s mandate, the resolution called for the mission’s “planned withdrawals from the Kasai in 2021 and progressively from Tanganyika in 2022, as well as the gradual consolidation of MONUSCO’s footprint in the three provinces where active conflict persists”. Members may also be interested in how the recent political changes might affect the work of the mission.
Council members will also be following closely both the ongoing and persistent violence in the country’s east and any political instability precipitated by the current changes in government in Kinshasa. Council members may use March’s meeting to reiterate the need for compromise by the DRC’s political leaders, including the issuance of a presidential or press statement to encourage Congolese stakeholders to work through their political differences in a peaceful manner.
While there is general consensus amongst Council members in support of the work of MONUSCO, the adoption of resolution 2556 highlighted some divisions on the best way to move forward with MONUSCO’s transition. Many of these issues—such as the duration and speed of the drawdown of MONUSCO and the role and work of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB)—are long-standing, and Council members were able to find compromise language during December’s adoption. However, they may continue to affect how Council members view the mission’s transition. In the last two years, South Africa, a significant troop-contributing country to the FIB, was a strong proponent of the FIB. The US, on the other hand, has argued that it would ultimately like to see the FIB dissolved. In addition, a 2020 independent assessment report called for the “expeditious deployment of combat units functioning as quick reaction forces” in accordance with UN pre–deployment training and verification standards. Troops from Kenya and Nepal would be among the forces to be deployed. With South Africa no longer on the Council and Kenya having joined in 2021, the change in Council membership may influence how other members view the need for the FIB.
Another contentious issue that arose during the MONUSCO mandate negotiations—language on humanitarian assistance—resulted in resolution 2556 being adopted without unanimity. As with several other recent mandate renewals, Russia insisted that the draft resolution include language recalling the “UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance” in several parts of the text. However, the text put in blue did not include all of Russia’s textual changes. Russia subsequently abstained on resolution 2556.
The penholder on the DRC is France. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|18 December 2020S/RES/2556||This extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 20 December 2021. Fourteen members voted in favour of the resolution, whereas the Russian Federation abstained.|
|25 June 2020S/RES/2528||Council members adopted a resolution, which renewed the DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2021 and the mandate for the Group of Experts until 1 August 2021.|
|21 September 2020S/2020/919||Detailing developments in the DRC from 17 June to 18 September 2020, this report also provided information on adjustments to MONUSCO’s footprint ahead of a potential, responsible drawdown.|
|Security Council Letters|
|26 February 2021S/2020/1265||This letter contained a voting record for resolution 2556.|