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 October 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 27 April. Xia highlighted the security challenges in eastern DRC due to the resumption of military activities by the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23 Movement) and the increasing attacks by other armed groups operating in the region; developments which have undermined the positive trend in the rapprochement among countries of the region. Xia welcomed the regional approach taken by the East African Community (EAC) using 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. He indicated that his office, in cooperation with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), has been rendering logistical and technical support to these efforts, which are referred to as the Nairobi process.
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. (DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies). 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. 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, the 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 bilateral ties.
On 6 July, the representatives of the guarantor institutions of the PSC Framework—the AU, UN, ICGLR, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—met in Nairobi to discuss the latest developments in the region in light of the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and its implications for regional peace and security. In a joint statement, the representatives supported efforts to de-escalate tensions and promote dialogue through the Nairobi and Angolan mediation processes.
The EAC summit held on 22 July in Arusha, Tanzania, appointed then-Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as a facilitator to oversee the implementation of the Nairobi process and decided to expeditiously implement its decision to deploy a regional force in eastern DRC as part of the Nairobi process. According to media reports, Burundi became the first country to deploy a battalion in South Kivu, eastern DRC, on 15 August as part of the EAC regional force. On 8 September, the EAC and DRC signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Kinshasa. The agreement envisages the deployment of the regional force for an initial period of six months.
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. On 22 August, the heads of intelligence and security services in Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda met in Kampala to review the overall security situation in the region and define a strategy to engage illegal armed groups. The intelligence officials form part of the Contact and Coordination Group, which was established in May 2021 to facilitate non-military solutions to the security situation in the eastern DRC.
As part of addressing the root causes of conflict, countries of the region have also been focused on countering illicit exploitation of and trade in natural resources in eastern DRC and the region. The latest report of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, published on 14 June, described how armed groups have continued to traffic in and profit from trade in natural resources in eastern DRC. The guarantors of the PSC Framework underscored the need for countries of the region to redouble efforts in implementing the recommendations of the high-level workshop on natural resources, which was held in Khartoum from 31 August to 2 September 2021, to strengthen the implementation of the ICGLR Regional Initiative against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources.
SADC held its 42nd summit in Kinshasa, DRC. Tshisekedi assumed the rotating chairmanship of SADC in addition to chairing the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the PSC Framework. The leaders at the SADC Summit discussed the security situation in eastern DRC and agreed on the need to explore all avenues to support efforts towards improving the security situation.
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 and reiterate their support for regional cooperation initiatives through the Nairobi and the Angolan mediation processes. They may also be keen to learn more about the deployment of the EAC regional force. A possible option for Council members is to invite representatives of the EAC and ICGLR to brief the Council on the Nairobi and Angolan mediation processes.
The other major issue is how to continue supporting the full and effective implementation of the PSC Framework to promote peace and security in the Great Lakes region. Council members could adopt a statement noting the recent meeting of the guarantors of the PSC framework and encouraging progress on the priority areas identified at the meeting to address the prevailing peace and security challenges and preserve the gains of recent years in enhancing regional cooperation.
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 in support of regional initiatives and processes. The US, however, emphasises that the deployment of regional forces in eastern DRC should be closely coordinated with MONUSCO and that the Security Council should be notified prior to such deployments.
Council members also support efforts to counter the illegal exploitation of natural resources, but there is disagreement among members on the use of sanctions to address the issue. The US proposed that Belgian businessman Alain Goetz and affiliated companies (in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere) be included in the sanction’s designation list for their involvement in illegal gold exports from DRC, but China and Russia placed a hold on that proposal. At the 27 April meeting of the Council, China argued that “the relevant sanctions measures of the Security Council must not be misused, let alone become a tool for suppressing other political and commercial players”.
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.|
|26 April 2022S/2022/276||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSC Framework) for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region, which covers the period from 16 September 2021 to 15 March.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|27 April 2022S/PV.9023||This was a Security Council briefing on the situation in the Great Lakes region.|