Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council will convene to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita, is expected to brief on the latest report of the Secretary-General detailing the situation in the DRC and on progress by MONUSCO towards implementing its mandate. The report covers the period from 19 March to 18 June. A civil society representative may also be invited to brief.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the DRC attests to progress on the political side as a result of the installation of the government of the “Union sacrée de la nation” and the adoption on 26 April of its programme of action for 2021-2023. Its key points include the declaration of a state of emergency in the eastern provinces; the establishment of a disarmament, demobilisation, community reintegration and stabilisation (DDCRS) programme; security sector, justice and administrative reforms; constitutional reforms; and the holding of local and national elections in 2023. Falling only marginally short of the 30 percent target, 27 percent of the newly appointed cabinet members are women, compared to 17 percent under the previous administration. To further pave the way for elections, Parliament adopted a bill to reform the national electoral commission, to be tabled before the Supreme Court prior to its promulgation.
Despite the gains made towards steadier governance, establishing nation-wide security remains a key challenge for President Félix Tshisekedi’s government. The deteriorating security situation in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces caused Tshisekedi to declare a state of siege in both areas, effective since 6 May. As a result, civilian governance was transferred to a military governor and a police vice-governor, and increased powers of search and arrest were given to police and military. The Secretary-General’s report attributes the deteriorating security situation in both provinces to increased armed group activity. Specifically, in North Kivu, the fragile situation triggered demonstrations and mobilisation against local authorities, humanitarian actors, and the UN amidst perceived shortcomings in protecting the civilian population. An attack on MONUSCO forces in Beni on 10 May resulted in the death of one peacekeeper. South Kivu and Maniema provinces also saw an increase in armed group violence, but the situation in Tanganyika Province reportedly improved. In the Kasai provinces, the report notes that violence erupted over a territorial dispute, resulting in 14 deaths and some 100 houses looted. MONUSCO documented 1,084 human rights violations and abuses, over 90 percent of which occurred in conflict-affected provinces, with North Kivu and Ituri in the lead. Armed groups were responsible for 54 percent of violations, and 46 percent were attributed to state agents.
The eruption on 22 May of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano north of the city of Goma in North Kivu exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. At least 32 people were killed as a result of the volcanic eruption. UNHCR reported that over 230,000 persons were internally displaced, many of whom sought shelter in surrounding areas, while thousands fled to neighbouring Rwanda. Over 4,000 homes were also destroyed, leaving about 20,000 people without shelter. The Council discussed the situation on 15 June and called on the international community in press elements to increase its support and on armed groups “to cease immediately all forms of violence, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance and post-disaster reconstruction”. The humanitarian response plan, which seeks $1.98 billion to address the needs of 9.6 million people across many areas of the country, is funded at 12 percent. There are some 5 million internally displaced persons and over half a million refugees across the country, with wide-spread high levels of acute food insecurity. Humanitarian access remains challenging amidst a volatile security situation.
Efforts to advance the MONUSCO drawdown are ongoing. Resolution 2556 requested a transition plan that lays out “practical modalities of the transfer of tasks to the Government of the DRC, the UN Country Team (UNCT) and other stakeholders, including a set of detailed, measurable and realistic benchmarks with indicative timelines”. Drawdown activities meanwhile are proceeding with MONUSCO completely withdrawing from the Kasai provinces by 30 June and preparations underway for a joint mission-UNCT plan for withdrawal from Tanganyika by mid-2022.
Since the Council last met on the DRC on 30 March, there have also been developments regarding the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. The Council renewed the sanctions measures on 29 June for another 12 months and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2022. The 1533 committee convened on 20 May to receive a briefing by the experts on their final report, issued on 10 June. The report documented armed group activity, including the increased use of improvised explosive devices, against the Congolese armed forces (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo or FARDC) and civilians, and violent activity in resource-rich areas; illicit mining activities implicating FARDC members illegally present at gold mining sites; and the lack of progress towards DDR processes, contributing to arms trafficking and increased use by some armed groups of small arms and light weapons. During the same meeting, committee members also received a briefing by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. The Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict issued on 6 May lists the DRC among the countries with the highest number (3,470 verified cases) of grave violations against children.
Key Issues and Options
Council members may welcome the government’s programme of action and may wish to hear about progress towards its full implementation, especially in light of the funding that will be necessary. The endeavour is estimated to have an annual cost of $12 billion, compared to an annual state budget of $7.1 billion. Of particular interest in this regard may be the implementation of necessary reforms in advance of the 2023 elections. How to curb violence and armed group activity will likely be a key concern, and Council members may inquire about progress towards the full implementation of the DDCRS programme, the status of the siege in Ituri and North Kivu provinces, and government efforts to increase protection of civilians. Council attention will likely also be focussed on the ongoing transition process, and members may seek details regarding the gradual handover of security and programmatic responsibilities to the government and UNCT. Several Council members may echo in their interventions calls from the recent press statement on the DRC for increased humanitarian assistance and unhindered humanitarian access.
There appears to be general support among Council members for the work of MONUSCO and the gradual mission drawdown. However, different views regarding timelines and benchmarks may emerge once the Council begins deliberations on how to further advance the drawdown process.
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.|
|30 June 2021|
|18 June 2021S/2021/587||This report covered developments in the DRC from 19 March to 18 June, including progress towards the implementation of MONUSCO’s mandate and political developments, such as the formation of a new government and the adoption of its work programme.|
|6 May 2021S/2021/437||This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.|
|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|
|10 June 2021S/2021/560||This letter contained the report submitted by the Group of Experts to the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic|
|1 April 2021S/2021/316||This letter contained the briefings of Council members during the meeting on DRC convened on 30 March 2021.|
|26 February 2021S/2020/1265||This letter contained a voting record for resolution 2556.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|10 May 2021SC/14516||In this press statement Security Council members condemned an attack on MONUSCO that occurred on 10 May near Beni, which resulted in the death of one Malawian peacekeeper.|