Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region
Expected Council Action
In October, 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 Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the DRC and progress made by MONUSCO towards implementing its mandate. The report covers the period from 19 June to 17 September. She is also expected to present the transition plan for MONUSCO pursuant to resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020, which is annexed to the Secretary-General’s report. The mandate of MONUSCO expires on 18 December.
During the month, the Council will also receive a briefing from the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, Huang Xia, on the Secretary-General’s biannual report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Region. Kenya plans to make this one of the signature events of its presidency, and the format of the meeting is expected to be a ministerial-level debate chaired by Kenyan Foreign Minister Raychelle Omamo. A presidential statement is the anticipated outcome of this meeting.
Key Recent Developments
On 3 July, DRC President Félix Tshisekedi promulgated a law reforming the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), after which the National Assembly issued a timeline for the designation of the CENI members. This process has been delayed because of lack of consensus within the Plateforme des confessions religieuses, which is supposed to propose a candidate for CENI president to the National Assembly. The Secretary-General’s recent report on the DRC maintains that the “holding of timely, inclusive and peaceful elections is a key element to sustainable peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”. The elections are currently planned for 2023.
On 4 August, with the ruling Union sacrée de la nation (USN) coalition having completed its first 100 days in office, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde expressed his satisfaction with the implementation of the “state of siege” policy in improving security in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu. However, the National Assembly and the Senate have both urged an assessment of the effectiveness of this policy. In spite of the state of siege, the security situation in both provinces has remained dire, with reports of heightened attacks on civilians by armed groups. In his recent report, the Secretary-General has underscored the need for authorities to carry out the “state of siege” policy in “compliance with the international human rights and humanitarian law obligations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” and emphasised the population’s “right to a fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable justice system”.
On 5 July, a joint working group on MONUSCO’s transition was formed, consisting of representatives of the DRC government and MONUSCO. The group consulted with civil society and other partners and developed “18 benchmarks, risks and mitigation measures and strategic partnerships that form the basis of the transition plan”. The Secretary-General submitted the plan in accordance with resolution 2556 as an annex to his report, which will inform the Council’s discussion ahead of the mission’s mandate renewal in December. In line with the joint strategy for the drawdown of MONUSCO, the mission ceased its activities in the Kasai region on 30 June and is expected to withdraw from Tanganyika by mid-2022.
The last time the Council received a briefing on the Secretary-General’s biannual report on the Great Lakes region was on 12 April. The latest report is expected before the end of September. In his last briefing to the Council, Xia discussed the positive engagements by President Tshisekedi with leaders in the region in an effort to find a lasting solution to the issue of armed groups that continue to cause instability and chaos in the eastern part of the DRC. In this regard, he noted the role of Angolan President João Lourenço, who with his Congolese counterpart has sought to bring Rwanda and Uganda closer together in the framework of a quadripartite process. Xia also noted positive developments in efforts to improve relations between Burundi and Rwanda and expressed his commitment to continue supporting rapprochement and political dialogue in the region.
While noting these encouraging developments, Xia underscored the need for the continued support of the international community to the region. At the ministerial debate, he may highlight the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region developed by his office. The strategy outlines the UN’s priorities for the next ten years in supporting countries in the region in their efforts to achieve peace, security and development. Representatives of the AU, ICGLR, signatory countries of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, diplomatic missions in the region, bilateral and multilateral partners and civil society organisations participated at a workshop in Kinshasa on 9 and 10 June to develop an action plan for the implementation of the regional strategy.
In accordance with the decision of the eighth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), held on 20 November 2020, a Contact and Coordination Group (CCG) was established to find non-military solutions to the security challenges facing the region. The group, launched at a workshop in Goma from 3 to 6 May, started its work by adopting an action plan at a meeting in Bujumbura on 5 and 6 July.
Xia noted that the issue of armed groups can only be resolved if the root causes of instability in the region, in particular the illegal exploitation of natural resources, are addressed. His office, in collaboration with ICGLR and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), held a workshop on natural resources in the Great Lakes region in Khartoum from 31 August to 2 September. The workshop, which was attended by members of the ICGLR, the UN, regional and international development organisations, and financial institutions, discussed coordinated actions to curb the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the region.
On 30 July, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee held informal consultations on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC. The discussion focused on efforts to fight persistent illicit trade in the DRC’s gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten (3T) sectors. The committee was briefed by the Group of Experts, the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, the Executive Secretary of the ICGLR and a representative from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 48th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on 5 October on the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in the DRC and the activities of the UN Joint Human Rights Office (A/HRC/48/47). The report, covering 1 June 2020 to 31 May, concludes that the human rights situation “was severely compromised by the persistence of attacks by armed groups targeting the civilian population”, resulting in many human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence.
Key Issues and Options
Some of the key issues related to the situation in DRC and the Great Lakes region that may be raised during the briefing session include how to:
- provide continued support to the government’s programme of action;
- appeal to Congolese political stakeholders to resolve their differences through dialogue to create favourable conditions for the organisation of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in 2023;
- welcome the development of MONUSCO’s transition plan for the phased and gradual drawdown of the mission;
- draw appropriate lessons from the drawdown and exit of the mission from Kasai province;
- implement agreed on benchmarks and timelines in a flexible manner in accordance with the evolving security situation and the gradual takeover of security responsibilities by the Congolese armed forces (FARDC);
- encourage regional efforts in addressing the security challenges in the eastern part of Congo in relation to the activities of negative forces; and
- support regional efforts in the fight against illegal exploitation of natural resources.
Kenya intends to propose a presidential statement as an outcome of the ministerial-level debate on the Great Lakes region. It appears discussions are underway between Kenya and France, the penholder, on the focus of the draft text. In terms of the substance of the text, options for the Council include:
- welcoming MONUSCO’s transition plan;
- commending the rapprochement and political dialogue between and among countries of the Great Lakes region;
- welcoming the commencement of the CCG’s work;
- supporting the implementation of the UN regional strategy; and
- encouraging regional efforts in the fight against illegal exploitation of natural resources.
There appears to be general support among Council members for MONUSCO’s work as well as for gradual mission drawdown. However, differing views regarding timelines and benchmarks may emerge once the Council begins deliberations on how to further advance the drawdown process. The illegal exploitation of natural resources, intercommunal violence, and human rights violations in the DRC are among the issues that concern Council members.
France is the penholder on the DRC; Niger chairs the 1533 Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON DRC AND THE GREAT LAKES
|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 March 2021S/2021/306||The report provides an overview of peace and security developments in the Great Lakes region and DRC|
|21 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.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|14 September 2021SC/14634||The statement provided a summary of the 1533 (2004) sanctions committee meeting concerning DRC elicit trafficking.|