Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In September, 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 the anticipated briefer.
Key Recent Developments
On 29 June, the Security Council received updates on the situation in the DRC and the activities of MONUSCO. Keita briefed on the security situation in eastern DRC, which is deteriorating due to the increased military activities of the M23 Movement and other armed groups, such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO). She highlighted the challenges facing MONUSCO in protecting civilians and ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers given the increasing threats posed by the M23 as “a conventional army rather than an armed group”. In this regard, she noted the group’s “access to increasingly sophisticated firepower and equipment, including long-range mortar and machine-gun capabilities, as well as precision anti-aircraft weapons”.
On 6 July, the Chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Angolan President João Lourenço, hosted Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Luanda for talks to ease tensions between the two countries following the resurgence of the M23 Movement. The two countries agreed on a roadmap that includes the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from occupied positions based on the decisions of the Nairobi process. (This process is led by East African Community (EAC) heads of state who are addressing the peace and security challenges in eastern DRC 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 a political dialogue). They also vowed to defeat the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnic Hutu armed group active in eastern DRC, and its splinter groups. Furthermore, DRC and Rwanda agreed on the need to fight hate speech and create conditions for the return of refugees. Based on the Luanda roadmap adopted on 7 July, the two countries held their joint permanent commission in Luanda on 20-21 July with a view to mending their bilateral ties.
However, these positive developments were overshadowed by the controversy surrounding a leaked report of the Group of Experts (GoE) assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. According to media reports, the GoE said that it had “solid evidence” regarding Rwanda’s support for the M23 Movement. In response to this, Rwanda argued that the GoE report is “unpublished and unvalidated”, and that none of its allegations had been included in its annual report submitted to the Security Council in June. DRC Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula requested that the confidential report and its annex be made public in an 8 August letter to the President of the Security Council. He further requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the report.
Meanwhile, MONUSCO has come under pressure from local communities in eastern DRC against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation in the region. On 25 July, protests against MONUSCO for failing to stabilise the security situation in eastern DRC started in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, and spread to other cities. The protesters attacked the mission’s premises in Goma, leaving several people dead, including three UN peacekeepers. In a 27 July press statement, Council members condemned all attacks against MONUSCO and called on the Congolese authorities to investigate the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Following the protests, the Congolese government announced its intention to reassess MONUSCO’s transition plan and to seek the mission’s early exit. (The transition plan was developed in close consultation with the government and other relevant stakeholders and was endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2612 of 20 December 2021). The Congolese government also expelled the MONUSCO spokesperson for allegedly making inappropriate statements that contributed to tensions between local communities and the mission. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix visited Kinshasa on 28 and 29 July seeking to defuse tensions and rebuild trust between MONUSCO and the Congolese government. He briefed the Council in consultations on 3 August after returning from Kinshasa.
In another incident, MONUSCO peacekeepers opened fire on the DRC-Uganda border on 31 July, killing two people and injuring 15. The Secretary-General, through his spokesperson, expressed outrage over the incident and welcomed the decision of his Special Representative and head of MONUSCO to open an investigation into the matter.
The EAC ordinary summit held on 22 July in Arusha, Tanzania, decided to expeditiously implement its decision to deploy a regional force in eastern DRC as part of the Nairobi process, and appointed outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as a facilitator to oversee the implementation of the Nairobi process. According to media reports, Burundi became the first country to deploy its forces in South Kivu, eastern DRC, on 15 August as part of the EAC regional force.
On 30 June, the Council adopted resolution 2641, which renewed the DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2023 and extended the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2023. The advance notification requirement regarding support for military activities in the DRC, set out by resolution 1807 of 18 March 2008, was contentious during the negotiations. The three African members and China supported the DRC’s request for the notification requirement to be lifted. The penholder, France, tried to offer a compromise by removing the notification requirement for supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use and related technical assistance or training and for shipments of arms and related material for the DRC. This compromise was not enough to satisfy those members, however, and the resolution was adopted with ten votes in favour and five abstentions (China, the Russian Federation, Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya).
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 51st session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on 4 October on the report of the International Team of Experts on the DRC (A/HRC/51/60) and the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (A/HRC/51/61).
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for Council members is how to address the growing insecurity in eastern DRC and its impact on regional peace and security. Council members may wish to reiterate their support for the Nairobi process and the ICGLR mediation. A possible option is for the French Presidency to invite the representatives of the EAC and ICGLR to brief the Council.
The other major issue is how to address the root causes of insecurity in eastern DRC. Council members may reiterate their calls for non-military measures, including the full and effective implementation of the government’s programme on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants. How to fight hate speech and disinformation is another critical issue that may continue to draw the attention of Council members because of its impact in polarising communities and fomenting tensions between local communities and MONUSCO.
Furthermore, the Congolese government’s request for an early exit of the mission is an impending issue. MONUSCO’s mandate will expire in December. Based on its transition plan, the mission is expected to meet several benchmarks and timelines, including the significant reduction of security threats and the restoration of state authority throughout the national territory, before it gradually draws down and exits.
Council members support MONUSCO’s work and the mission’s gradual drawdown. At the same time, they remain deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC. Council members support the regional approach in addressing the security challenges, but at the June Council meeting, the US underscored the need to notify the Security Council about the deployment of any forces in eastern DRC and coordinate with MONUSCO. At that meeting, several members continued to support non-military solutions and encouraged dialogue within the framework of regional initiatives. India maintained that the mission’s transition should be handled in a gradual, responsible and orderly manner in accordance with its exit strategy. China called on MONUSCO to assess the current security situation in cooperation with the Congolese authorities and make progress on its transition plan in an orderly and responsible way.
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|
|30 June 2022 S/RES/2641||This resolution renewed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime until 1 July 2023 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 June 2022 S/PV.9081||This was a Security Council briefing on the situation in the DRC.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|27 July 2022SC/14985||This was on the attack against MONUSCO in North Kivu province, resulting in the deaths of three peacekeepers.|