March 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2022
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AFRICA

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

In March, the Security Council will hold a briefing on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bintou Keita, the Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), is the anticipated briefer. Consultations are expected to follow the briefing.

Key Recent Developments

On 20 December 2021, the Security Council adopted resolution 2612, extending MONUSCO’s mandate for another year. It also welcomed the mission’s transition plan, which was developed on the basis of the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO endorsed by resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020. In the resolution, the Council further requested the mission to withdraw from Tanganyika province by mid-2022 and consolidate its presence in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, where security challenges persist.

It has been nine months since the government declared a state of siege to address insecurity in the eastern provinces. However, the security situation continues to deteriorate, and serious concerns remain about the protection of civilians and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. On 1 February, militias belonging to the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO) attacked the Savo camp for internally displaced persons in Ituri province, which left at least 58 civilians dead and more than 40 injured. According to OCHA, “Ituri province is experiencing a cycle of armed violence amid inter-communal tensions”, making it the province “with the highest number of people in need at 2.9 million people”.

On 4 February, Security Council members issued a press statement condemning the attack by CODECO militias and expressing concerns over increased armed group activities in eastern DRC. MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade has stepped up its operations to deter the activities of armed groups and provide security for the communities affected by the recent attacks. In November 2021, the DRC and Uganda also launched a joint military operation in eastern DRC targeting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and responsible for several deadly attacks in eastern DRC and Uganda.

The tenth Summit of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement, signed by the DRC and countries of the Great Lakes region to promote regional peace, security and stability, took place in Kinshasa on 24 February. President Félix Tshisekedi, as current chair of the mechanism, highlighted the fight against armed groups in eastern DRC in his remarks at the summit.  In January, Tshisekedi also took up the leadership of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which will likely help him to advance his regional security and development agenda. At the AU summit in Addis Ababa in early February, Tshisekedi handed over the rotating AU chairmanship to President Macky Sall of Senegal.

Meanwhile, the political situation in the DRC remains tense. On 29 January, the Union for Democracy and Social Justice (UDPS), President Tshisekedi’s party, decided to remove its interim leader Jean-Marc Kabund from his position, allegedly for his involvement in negotiations with the leaders of former President Joseph Kabila’s party in 2019. He is said to be an influential political figure and the architect of the Union Sacrée, the governing coalition that replaced the alliance between President Tshisekedi and former President Joseph Kabila. Kabund had resigned as vice president of the national assembly on 14 January, after the Republican Guard reportedly raided his house.

In early February, the Congolese authorities arrested François Beya Kasonga, the president’s special security advisor, allegedly for national security reasons. Kasonga is said to have once headed the country’s National Intelligence Agency. While the Congolese authorities have not given details about Kasonga’s arrest, there was talk of a foiled coup on social media, and the president’s spokesperson was quoted as saying that “the government has ‘serious evidence’ of a national security threat” and that “no attempt to destabilize democratic institutions will be tolerated”. While this could be seen as an effort by President Tshisekedi to consolidate power ahead of the country’s election in 2023, some analysts view it as an indication of a possible fracture within the ruling coalition, creating fears of political uncertainty.

Five years after the murder of two members of the DRC Sanctions Committee’s panel of experts, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, in Kasai province in March 2017, a DRC military court sentenced 51 people to death, many of whom were tried in absentia. In reacting to this decision, the UN reaffirmed its support for the Congolese authorities in pursuing justice for the murders of the two UN experts and those Congolese nationals killed with them. However, it opposed the use of the death penalty and urged the country to maintain its moratorium on capital punishment.

Human Rights-related Developments

In resolution 48/20, the Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the team of international experts on the situation in Kasai and extended it to encompass the entire national territory of the DRC. The HRC requested an oral update from the team during its 49th session, scheduled to take place from 28 February to 1 April. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will also present an oral update on the situation of human rights in the DRC at the same session.

On 8 February, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, issued a statement expressing deep concern at ongoing incidents of “deadly ethnically-motivated attacks” on internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps by armed groups in eastern DRC. Throssell noted that OHCHR had documented ten attacks on IDP sites in 2021 in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, and that at least 106 people were killed, 16 were injured and at least seven women were subjected to acts of sexual violence in these attacks. She observed that the regional military authorities had launched a preliminary investigation into a recent attack on 1 February on the Plaine Savo IDP camp, and called on the government to investigate the attacks on other IDP camps and ensure that the investigations are “independent, effective and transparent”. She emphasised the need for those responsible to face justice and underscored that OHCHR colleagues in MONUSCO are ready to provide technical and logistical support to the authorities.

Key Issues and Options

The key issue for Council members to consider is how to tackle insecurity in eastern DRC. They may want to hear from Keita what MONUSCO, particularly its Force Intervention Brigade, is doing to prevent, deter and stop armed groups by carrying out unilateral and joint operations with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in line with resolution 2612. Of particular concern would be how to enhance the protection of civilians, including those sheltering in camps for internally displaced persons. These camps have recently become more frequent targets of attacks by armed groups.

A related issue is what can be done to promote an integrated regional approach in addressing the threats posed by armed groups. Council members might be keen to know about the level of cooperation between MONUSCO and the joint military operation by Ugandan and Congolese armed forces against the ADF. They might also be interested to learn more about the outcome of the tenth Summit of the Regional Oversight Mechanism.

Another key issue is related to the emerging political fault lines in Kinshasa, which could undermine political stability as the country gears up to hold elections next year. Council members could reiterate their call on Tshisekedi to remain committed to delivering the governance, security and economic reforms in his government’s programme of action for 2021-2023.

A possible option is for Council members to issue a press statement reaffirming support to MONUSCO in its efforts to respond to armed groups operating in eastern DRC, encouraging a regional approach to promote durable peace and stability in DRC and the Great Lakes region, and urging DRC political stakeholders to remain focused on creating conditions favourable for holding peaceful and credible elections in 2023.

Council Dynamics

There is general support among Council members for MONUSCO’s work and the mission’s gradual drawdown. This was reflected by resolution 2556, in which the Council endorsed the mission’s transition plan, developed with the government and with the involvement of civil society representatives. During this month’s briefing, Council members might be interested to learn about the implementation of the transition plan and the progress made towards achieving its benchmarks and indicators.

In the face of a deteriorating security situation in the eastern provinces and its impact on the civilian population, the protection of civilians will continue to be a major focus for Council members. The search for non-military solutions to the security problem in eastern DRC is another important issue that Council members continue to highlight in their interventions, and they may continue to reiterate their support for a regional approach through the cooperation of countries of the Great Lakes region.

France is the penholder on the DRC. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) chairs the 1533 Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC

Security Council Resolution
20 December 2021S/RES/2612 This resolution extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 20 December 2022.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 December 2021S/PV.8936 This was a Security Council briefing on the situation in the DRC.
Security Council Press Statement
4 February 2022SC/14787 This was a statement on the situation in DRC.

 

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