April 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2022
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AFRICA

Great Lakes Region (DRC)

Expected Council Action 

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for 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 the Great Lakes region.

Key Recent Developments

The most recent briefing on the Secretary-General’s biannual report on the PSC framework was held on 20 October 2021 during Kenya’s Security Council presidency. Kenya sought to focus the meeting on sustainable and transparent management of natural resources as a means to address the root causes and drivers of conflict in the Great Lakes region. It spearheaded the adoption of a presidential statement which, among other things, indicated that individuals and entities involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources may be designated by the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

At the October meeting, Council members underscored the importance of convening the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM) of the PSC Framework to monitor its implementation. More than three years since its last meeting in Kampala in October 2018, several regional leaders and guarantor institutions of the PSC Framework—the UN, the AU, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Regions (ICGLR), and the South African Development Community (SADC)—convened in Kinshasa on 24 February for the tenth meeting of the ROM. Based on a comprehensive report covering the period from October 2017 to February 2022 submitted by its Technical Support Committee, the ROM assessed the political and security situation in the region, including progress and challenges in the implementation of the national, regional and international commitments under the PSC Framework to consolidate peace and security in eastern DRC and to promote cooperation among countries of the region.

The communiqué adopted at the end of the meeting reaffirmed the regional leaders’ commitment to the full implementation of the PSC Framework “as an important vehicle to address the causes and drivers of conflict and instability in the region”. In the communiqué, the ROM also welcomed the adoption of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region (2020-2030), which was developed by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and published in January 2021. The ROM further called for the swift implementation of the strategy’s action plan, which was developed in consultation with various stakeholders, including representatives of the AU, ICGLR, signatory countries of the PSC Framework, diplomatic missions in the region, bilateral and multilateral partners, and civil society organisations.

The reopening of the Gatuna/Katuna border between Rwanda and Uganda in January is a positive development welcomed by the ROM in the communiqué. This followed a visit by Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the Commander of the Land Forces of the Ugandan Peoples’ Defence Forces and President Yoweri Museveni’s son, to Kigali, where he met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The border had been closed for three years because of strained relations between Rwanda and Uganda. Rwanda alleged that Uganda was supporting rebel groups intent on overthrowing its government, while Uganda claimed that Rwanda was carrying out illegal intelligence activities in Uganda.

The recent decision by the US and the EU to lift the economic sanctions imposed against Burundi in 2015, when former President Pierre Nkurunziza sought to change the constitution and run for a third term, is another important development in the region. The decision was said to be an acknowledgement of the reform progress under the leadership of his successor, President Évariste Ndayishimiye. While the ROM and ICGLR welcomed the decision, human rights groups criticised it, arguing that the situation in the country has not shown much improvement.

Despite some positive developments, the Great Lakes region continues to face persistent security challenges, including the activities of armed groups in eastern DRC that pose a major threat to regional peace and stability. In a 4 February press statement, Security Council members condemned the attack by the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO), an armed group active in Ituri province, on the Savo camp for internally displaced persons, which left at least 58 civilians dead and more than 40 injured. Media reports indicate that CODECO has continued to attack IDP camps. On 15 March, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), attacked several villages in eastern DRC and killed more than 60 people, according to media reports. There are also indications that the M23 Movement, a rebel group previously operating in North Kivu Province, has resumed its military activities. Attacks by armed groups have continued unabated despite the “state of siege”, namely the measures that the Congolese government has imposed since May 2021 to address security challenges in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces, and the ongoing joint military operations by DRC and Uganda, which were launched in November 2021 targeting the ADF.

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has enhanced its efforts to prevent, deter and stop armed groups by carrying out unilateral and joint operations with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC). Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, however, the Ukrainian government informed the UN that it is withdrawing its military contingent—as well as helicopters and other equipment—that has been deployed as part of MONUSCO. The Ukrainian contingent consists of 268 peacekeepers, including 250 troops, six staff officers, five individual police, and seven experts, according to the UN. Ukraine also has eight helicopters deployed in eastern DRC. The decision to repatriate these peacekeepers and equipment was apparently made to strengthen Ukraine’s defences in the war effort at home. The UN spokesperson indicated that the process to facilitate their departure is underway, while discussions have been initiated with other troop-contributing countries to fill the gap that this will cause.

Aside from the ongoing military efforts to counter the activities of armed groups, countries in the region have been working on non-military measures to address security challenges. In May 2021, a Contact and Coordination Group (CCG) composed of security experts from Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda was launched. These experts met in Goma (eastern DRC) on 17 December 2021 to discuss concrete actions to be taken, including the establishment of an operational cell in Goma to coordinate activities related to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants.

Key Issues and Options   

A key issue for the Council is how to comprehensively address the persistent security challenge facing the DRC and the region. In this regard, Council members may express concern over the increasing insecurity in eastern DRC, reiterate their support for regional cooperation initiatives to respond to this challenge, and underscore the need for the full and effective implementation of the PSC Framework and the UN strategy.

Another key issue is how to sustain the momentum generated by the rapprochement between countries in the region to foster lasting peace, stability and development in the Great Lakes. Council members may wish to welcome the reopening of the border between Rwanda and Uganda. They may also welcome the convening of the ROM, which is critical in overseeing the implementation of the PSC Framework.

A possible option for Council members is to issue a press statement welcoming the outcome of the ROM meeting and reaffirming their support for ongoing efforts to promote durable peace and stability in the DRC and the Great Lakes region.

Council Dynamics  

Council members are broadly supportive of addressing the root causes and drivers of conflict in the Great Lakes region through a comprehensive regional approach. They also appreciate the Special Envoy’s efforts and support the role of regional and sub-regional organisations.

Several members support non-military solutions to the persistent security challenges in the region. Some emphasise the significance of addressing the region’s challenges through the peace, security and development nexus. There are also members that focus on addressing the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources as well as the spread of small arms and light weapons. The US, in particular, may refer to its 17 March decision to impose sanctions on Belgian businessman Alain Goetz and affiliated companies (in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere) for his involvement in illegal gold exports from DRC. Others continue to attach particular importance to the humanitarian and human rights situation and stress the need to ensure accountability for crimes committed in eastern DRC, including sexual exploitation and abuse.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES

Security Council Presidential Statements
20 October 2021S/PRST/2021/19 This presidential statement recognised the progress made in the implementation of national and regional commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, and urged the signatory states to remain committed to its full implementation.
Secretary-General’s Reports
30 September 2021S/2021/836 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the commitments made under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region.
Security Council Meeting Records
20 October 2021S/PV.8884 This was the meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region.

 

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