Great Lakes Region (DRC)
Expected Council Action
Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia is expected to provide his biannual 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 on other recent developments in the region. Xia is also likely to brief on the implementation of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes region. The strategy was presented to the Council in December 2020, and the biannual report of the Secretary-General on the PSC Framework is due by 29 March.
Key Recent Developments
In his 29 September 2020 report on the implementation of the PSC framework, the Secretary-General informed the Council of ongoing efforts by his Special Envoy to develop a strategy for peace consolidation, conflict prevention and conflict resolution in the Great Lakes region. On 4 December 2020, the Secretary-General submitted the finalised strategy to the Security Council. Numerous stakeholders were consulted on the text, including PSC Framework signatory countries, regional organisations, civil society representatives, international partners, various UN entities and the African Union.
The strategy suggests a whole-of-system approach to the Great Lakes region, detailing ten priorities outlined under three pillars:
- The first pillar covers peace, security and justice. Priorities under this pillar are dialogue and inclusive political processes; sustained cooperation on cross-border security issues; good governance, rule of law and human rights; and women/youth and peace and security.
- The second pillar focusses on sustainable development and shared prosperity, with the priority areas of equitable and inclusive socio–economic development; regional economic cooperation, trade and investment; as well as sustainable and transparent management of natural resources.
- The third pillar addresses resilience to long-standing and emerging challenges and prioritises prevention of violent extremism; durable solutions to protracted forced displacement; as well as preparedness and resilience to internal and external shocks.
In outlining the strategy, the Secretary-General indicates that it is intended to capitalise on positive developments in the region over the past years, including the peace agreements reached in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2019, in South Sudan in 2018 and in Sudan in 2020, as well as increased regional cooperation on political or economic levels.
The guarantors of the PSC Framework (the UN, the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and the Southern African Development Community) met virtually on 3 March to commemorate the framework’s eighth anniversary. (It was agreed on 24 February 2013). In a statement issued after the meeting, the guarantors summarised the achievements made under the PSC Framework, echoed the progress noted in the strategy, and highlighted remaining challenges. Among the challenges noted were the illegal exploitation of natural resources, strained relationships between certain countries in the region, a high number of refugees and displaced persons, and ongoing human rights violations.
The Technical Support Committee on the implementation of the PSC Framework met virtually on 18 March, expressing its full support for the new strategy. The committee is comprised of senior government representatives of the signatory countries to the PSC Framework agreement (Angola, the DRC, Burundi, CAR, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) and its Guarantors (the UN, the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and the Southern African Development Community).
A number of notable political, security and humanitarian developments have occurred in the Great Lakes region in recent months, including in cases on the Council’s agenda. In the DRC, the ruling coalition close to former President Joseph Kabila, the Cap pour le changement (CACH)–Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), collapsed in December 2020. A new government has yet to be formed.
On 27 January, several hundred members of parliament left the FCC to join two opposition parties supporting Union sacrée de la nation (USN), a newly formed coalition around President Félix Tshisekedi. Several ministers resigned, as did Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba, Senate President Alexis Thambwe Mwamba; and Assembly Speaker Jeanine Mabunda. These positions were subsequently filled, including the appointment of the former Director General of the DRC’s state mining company, Sama Lukonde Kyenge, as the new prime minister.
The first parliamentary session with the participation of USN took place on 15 March. With allies of President Tshisekedi now appointed to several influential positions, several sources have indicated that the influence of former President Kabila has been reduced.
The security situation has remained difficult in the eastern DRC. On 22 February, the Italian ambassador to the DRC was among three killed in an attack on a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy north-east of Goma; an Italian embassy staff member and a WFP employee were also killed. Attacks on villages in the DRC by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group originating in Uganda, have also been reported in recent months.
The Security Council held a meeting on the DRC on 30 March. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita briefed on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the country and on progress by MONUSCO towards implementing its mandate. It was her first briefing to the Council in this role, following her appointment on 15 January. During the meeting, Council members voiced concern over the security situation in the country, particular in the eastern part of the DRC, and welcomed steps towards the formation of a new DRC government. Other topics raised in the meeting included: the importance of greater participation of women in the peacebuilding process; MONUSCO’s drawdown and the associated need for intensified cooperation between the UN and the DRC government at all levels; the impact of Tshisekedi’s AU chairpersonship on improved cooperation across the Great Lakes region; the illegal exploitation of natural resources; and the dire humanitarian situation.
In December 2020, CAR held presidential elections, resulting in the re-election of incumbent Faustin-Archange Touadéra, and the first round of legislative elections. The elections took place in a tense security environment, amid persistent attacks by armed groups across the country, in part as a result of mobilisation efforts by former President François Bozizé and the limited capacity of the CAR security forces to respond. A newly formed coalition of armed groups, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), contributed to the state of heightened instability. On 12 March, Council members reacted by adopting resolution 2566, which expressed grave concern over the deteriorating security situation and raised the troop ceiling for the military component of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) by 2,750 and that of the police component by 940. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) also redeployed two infantry companies and two military utility helicopters to CAR in support. The second round of legislative elections took place on 14 March in what was reported to have been a much calmer security environment than the first round.
Cross-border challenges persisted across the region. At the end of February, UNHCR reported the presence of over 300,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC and the need for over $222.6 million to provide adequate assistance to them. COVID-19 continues to adversely impact the socio–economic situation across the region, while pandemic-related movement constraints continue to impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 46th session, the Human Rights Council held an enhanced interactive dialogue on 22 March on the human rights situation in the DRC. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the situation in the east of the country continues to worsen, with human rights violations committed by a range of armed groups in areas with little to no presence of Congolese authorities, as well as by the Congolese military and police force. In her briefing, Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita noted a worrying increase in attacks by armed groups against the civilian population, particularly in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.
Key issues and options
A key issue for the Council is how it can help to promote the effective implementation of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes region. In this regard, members may choose to focus their interventions on ways in which countries in the region can cooperate on cross–border security, humanitarian and economic issues, including refugee flows, the COVID-19 pandemic, and trade and investment.
Another key issue for the Council is the persistent insecurity and violence in some of the countries in the Great Lakes region. While countries such as the CAR and the DRC are discrete agenda items, members could reinforce the call by the Secretary-General in his 29 September 2020 report on the implementation of the PSC Framework for “Governments of the region to expedite the establishment of critical national and regional disarmament, demobilization and reintegration frameworks”.
There is wide concern on the Council for a range of security and humanitarian difficulties facing the region. Among these concerns are the negative impact of the illegal trade in natural resources, violence against civilians caused by armed groups, and ongoing human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence. There are also heightened worries about the security environment in the CAR and the current political situation in the DRC.
KEY DOCUMENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES REGION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2566||This resolution raised the MINUSCA troop ceiling.|
|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.|
|12 November 2020S/RES/2552||This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2021.|
|8 December 2017S/RES/2389||This resolution was on the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region.|
|16 February 2021S/2021/146||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report.|
|29 September 2020S/2020/951||This was the latest Secretary-General report on the implementation of the PSC Framework.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|4 December 2020S/PRST/2020/12||This requested the Secretary-General to cover the country in the context of regular reporting on Central Africa and the Great Lakes Region.|
|Security Council Letters|
|3 December 2020S/2020/1168||This letter included the strategy for peace consolidation, conflict prevention and conflict resolution in the Great Lakes region.|