Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will vote on the renewal of the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime and on the mandate renewal of its Group of Experts. The sanctions measures, last renewed by resolution 2528 on 25 June 2020, will expire on 1 July. The mandate of the Group of Experts, due to expire on 1 August, was also last extended by resolution 2528. Both are traditionally renewed at the same time. The final report of the Group of Experts is expected to be shared with members of the Security Council by 15 June. France is the penholder on the DRC; Niger chairs the 1533 Sanctions Committee.
Key Recent Developments
The latest meeting concerning the DRC sanctions regime took place on 20 May, when the 1533 Committee met in a closed videoconference (VTC) meeting to discuss the final report of the Group of Experts and the report’s recommendations. The Group of Experts is mandated to report to the Council twice within its mandate cycle and had submitted its interim report to Council members on 23 December 2020.
The interim report covers the Experts’ findings regarding the activities of armed groups, including attacks against civilians, the use of children and the improved capacity by some groups to build improvised explosive devices. The report also covers illicit activities implicating the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC); cocoa farming and its links to armed group and FARDC activity; and the involvement of criminal networks in smuggling tin, tantalum and tungsten from mining sites under armed-group occupation. In Southern Irumu territory, the number of attacks against civilians by armed groups coming from North Kivu reportedly increased with FARDC operations, leading to large population displacements. In South Kivu, the armed group Mai-Mai Yakutumba continued to use illegal exploitation of gold and illicit logging as income streams. The Group of Experts also reported on cross-border issues, noting operations by elements of the Rwandan Defence Force in North Kivu from late 2019 to early October 2020 and incursions into South Kivu by the Burundi National Defence Force and the Imbonerakure youth group. Two weapons seizures in Kinshasa indicated the continued existence of internal trafficking networks.
Although the Experts’ final report is already under consideration by the 1533 Committee, it is still confidential until its submission to the Security Council. It is likely to contain updates on cases under investigation by the group. The group’s recommendations for improved compliance with the sanctions regime will likely be addressed to either member states—including the DRC and its neighbouring countries—the Council or the committee and may centre around improving cooperation in the area of cross-border protection; strengthening the capacity of the DRC government to counter illegal exploitation and trade of its natural resources while also improving traceability of traded goods; furthering disarmament, demobilization and reintegration measures; addressing armed-group activity and non-compliance of the FARDC; and curtailing weapons trafficking.
Political, security and key regional developments in the DRC and the wider region will also play a role when Council members convene to consider the sanctions regime in June. In the first months of the year, President Félix Tshisekedi reshuffled his cabinet and formed a new governing majority. The new government is now geared towards implementing his governance reform agenda, ranging from areas of governance to justice and security sector reform.
The latter will be of particular interest given that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) will close its locations in Kasai and Kasai Central by June and in Tanganyika by June 2022, with the DRC government taking over security responsibilities in those areas. The Secretary-General’s 18 March report on MONUSCO noted the deteriorating security situation in Ituri Province, in most areas of North Kivu, and across Kasai and Kasai Central. Between December 2020 and January, MONUSCO documented 1,111 human rights violations, attributing 51 percent of violations to armed groups and 49 percent to state agents. On 10 May, one peacekeeper was killed in an attack on MONUSCO by suspected elements of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Beni region.
On 4 December 2020, the Secretary-General presented his Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region. The strategy is intended to guide UN engagement in the region for the upcoming ten years, including on cross-border security matters and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Key Issues and Options
Security Council members will be guided by the findings contained in the Group of Experts’ report when considering the renewal of the sanctions measures. The last renewal on 25 June 2020 reaffirmed the existing sanctions measures and extended the mandate of the Group of Experts by another 14 months. As MONUSCO undergoes transition and the government focuses on key political reforms, the Council may consider maintaining the sanctions measures to further monitor the situation for another year. Given the role the illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources as well as arms trafficking play in the financing of armed groups, the Council may consider language aimed at improving the capacity of the government to counter illicit exploitation and improve traceability of goods.
As cross-border cooperation is a key topic for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region, efforts undertaken since the last renewal by the countries concerned and the UN system may be reflected in the new draft.
Resolution 2528 also calls on the government to “swiftly and fully investigate the killing of the two members of the Group of Experts and the four Congolese nationals accompanying them and bring those responsible to justice”. A new resolution may reflect the status of investigations since the March 2017 killings and may also reference the killing of the Italian ambassador to the DRC and three Italian embassy and World Food Programme (WFP) staff members in an attack on their convoy north of Goma on 22 February.
Resolution 2528 was adopted unanimously, reaffirming the Council’s intent to hold accountable individuals and entities designated by the committee that meet the sanctions criteria, including “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the DRC and planning, directing, sponsoring or participating in attacks against MONUSCO peacekeepers or UN personnel, including members of the Group of Experts” and violators of international law in respect of “the targeting of children or women in situations of armed conflict”. Although the composition of the Council has changed, the common understanding of the continued applicability of the sanctions measures in their current form appears to persist.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|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||This resolution renewed the DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2021 and the mandate for the Group of Experts until 1 August 2021.|
|27 May 2021S/2021/274||This report covered the formation of a new government coalition and progress regarding the gradual handover of security responsibilities to the DRC government in Kasai and Tanganyika.|
|21 September 2020S/2020/919||This report detailed developments in the DRC from 17 June to 18 September 2020 and provided information on adjustments to MONUSCO’s footprint ahead of a potential, and responsible, drawdown.|
|Security Council Letters|
|26 February 2021S/2020/1265||This letter contained a voting record for resolution 2556.|