Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council will hold a briefing and consultations 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 expected to brief.
This month the Council is also expected to renew the mandate of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts, which are due to expire on 1 July and on 1 August, respectively.
Key Recent Developments
On 20 December 2021, the Security Council received updates on the situation in the DRC and the activities of MONUSCO. Keita briefed about the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC due to the increasing military activities of armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO) and the M23 Movement. It has been a year since the government declared a “state of siege” to address insecurity in the eastern provinces, under which the military took over governance responsibilities in Ituri and North Kivu and military courts substituted civil courts. The declaration was for an initial period of 30 days, with the possibility of a two-week extension. So far, the parliament has extended it more than 22 times upon the government’s request. However, violence and insecurity in the eastern provinces have worsened; the killing and abduction of innocent civilians and the destruction of property have also significantly increased, according to reports by various human rights organisations. Because of growing public dissatisfaction, the government has reportedly decided to convene a roundtable to decide on the future of the “state of siege”.
The security situation in eastern DRC has also been a focus of two regional mini-summits hosted by Kenyan President and current Chair of the East African Community (EAC) Uhuru Kenyatta on 8 and 21 April. The regional leaders agreed to make progress on two tracks: a political track to facilitate consultations between the DRC and armed groups; and a military track, through the establishment of a regional force, to fight armed groups that refuse to take part in political dialogue. In a 28 April press statement, Security Council members took note of the regional leaders’ commitment to implement this two-track approach. The first round of consultations between the Congolese government and around 20 armed groups operating in the eastern provinces took place in Nairobi during the last week of April. At the time of writing, another round of consultations was expected to be convened before regional leaders met again by the end of May to assess the outcome of the consultations.
MONUSCO has enhanced its operations where armed groups are active in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. On 5 April, a Nepali peacekeeper died in Ituri province while fighting militiamen belonging to CODECO. This armed group was also behind the 8 May attack on a gold mine in the same province, which left 38 civilians dead and others missing or displaced. Persistent attacks by armed groups targeting sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the increasing use of improvised explosive devices have also increased the challenges of protecting civilians affected by conflict. In light of these challenges, MONUSCO has increased its stabilisation efforts by enhancing its deterrent posture, conducting offensive operations against armed groups, and providing protection to IDP sites. On 22 May, fighting was reported in Shangi, North Kivu, where M23 members attacked both the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and MONUSCO. In a 23 May statement, however, the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) complained about rocket shelling by the FARDC on Rwandan territory and requested an investigation by the regional Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
MONUSCO is in the process of implementing the benchmarks and indicators set out by its transition plan. The mission is expected to withdraw from Tanganyika province in June based on its exit strategy. It has been coordinating with the provincial authorities and the UN country team to preserve gains through the implementation of a humanitarian, development and peace nexus approach. One of the key milestones in the mission’s transition is the adoption of a national framework for disarmament and demobilisation, including community reintegration. On 17 March, the Congolese government adopted a national strategy for the implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS). The full and effective implementation of this program is believed to be critical for stabilising eastern DRC and enabling the Congolese government to take over MONUSCO’s tasks as the mission continues gradually to draw down.
The other important milestone is the organisation of credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections within the constitutional timeframe. In her last briefing to the Council, Keita underscored the significance of a consensus-based review of the electoral law and, in this regard, welcomed the commitment expressed by the President of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to facilitate this objective. The country held provincial elections on 6 May, which was seen as CENI’s trial run ahead of national elections in 2023. Candidates from the Union sacrée de la Nation, the ruling coalition, reportedly won in 11 of the 14 provinces where elections took place.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 49th session, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on 29 March, during which it considered the oral updates of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the team of international experts on the situation in Kasai. The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, said the human rights situation “continued to be compounded by increased and persistent attacks by armed groups against civilians, notably in the eastern provinces” and expressed particular concern over “the shrinking humanitarian space throughout conflict-affected provinces”. Bacre Ndiaye briefed as a member of the team of international experts, emphasising the need for capacity-building—including more administrators, judges and police officers—to combat corruption.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for Council members is how to address the growing insecurity in eastern DRC and the continued threat to civilians. Council members have raised continued concerns about respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in relation to the implementation of the state of siege. In this regard, they could be interested to hear about the consultations on the fate of this emergency measure. In addition, Council members have been supportive of an integrated regional approach in addressing the threats posed by armed groups and may be keen to know more about the prospect of ongoing consultations between the government and armed groups in Nairobi under the auspices of the EAC. In this regard, they could also consider holding an informal interactive dialogue with EAC and DRC representatives to learn more about the consultations.
Council members have also called for non-military measures to address the security challenges in eastern DRC. In this context, the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants has been considered especially critical. Council members may welcome the adoption of the national strategy for the implementation of the P-DDRCS and call for its full and effective implementation.
Another key issue is related to the political situation in the country and the ongoing preparations for the 2023 elections. Council members could stress the significance of the electoral law review process to ensure credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections.
Council members support MONUSCO’s work and the mission’s gradual drawdown. Nonetheless, they remain very concerned about the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC, especially the protection of civilians in the face of increasing attacks against IDP camps and the use of improvised explosive devices.
Council members are supportive of regional cooperation in addressing the security challenges in the DRC, including the joint military operations by FARDC and the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF). In searching for non-military solutions to the security problems in eastern DRC, they have underscored the significance of the P-DDRCS in stabilising the situation in eastern DRC, and African members, in particular, have called for the mobilisation of financial and material resources to support its implementation.
Council members also continue to raise the issue of illegal exploitation of natural resources as a major destabilising factor, and some have stressed the work of the 1533 DRC sanctions regime in sanctioning individuals and entities involved in illegal mining.
France is the penholder on the DRC. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) chairs the 1533 Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 December 2021S/RES/2612||This resolution extended the mandate of MONUSCO until 20 December 2022.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 March 2022S/PV.9007||This was a Security Council briefing on the situation in the DRC.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|5 April 2022SC/14855||This was on the attack against MONUSCO in Ituri province in which a Nepali peacekeeper was killed.|