March 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2023
Download Complete Forecast: PDF

Democratic Republic of the Congo 

Expected Council Action 

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

Council members are also scheduled to undertake a visiting mission to the DRC from 9 to 12 March. 

Key Recent Developments 

The security situation in the eastern DRC has continued to deteriorate. The M23 Movement, an armed group that has traditionally operated in North Kivu province, became active again in 2022, following a lull of several years. Regional diplomatic efforts had reportedly led the group to withdraw from some of the territories it controlled in North Kivu; however, it seized control of several villages— including a strategic town, Kitshanga, cutting off the road to Goma, the regional capital— following the recent resumption of intense fighting in January with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and allied militias.  

Other armed groups operating in eastern DRC, such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Coopérative pour le Développement du Congo (CODECO), and the Mai-Mai Group, have also continued to commit heinous crimes against civilians. On 24 January, the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, expressed alarm about reports she received of “multiple attacks against civilians along ethnic lines, as well as of mass killings, sexual violence, abductions, destruction of property and attacks against IDP [internally displaced persons] camps” perpetrated by these armed groups. 

The escalating insecurity in the eastern DRC has continued to stoke tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. On 24 January, Rwanda accused the DRC of violating its airspace and said that it had taken defensive measures against a Congolese aircraft, which was fired upon but did not sustain significant damage. The DRC denied the accusation, saying that the plane was within DRC airspace and that it considered Rwanda’s actions “a deliberate act of aggression”. On 26 January, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia expressed deep concern about the incident and urged both countries to exercise maximum restraint and work towards defusing tensions through dialogue.  

On 4 February, the East African Community (EAC) leaders met in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura in an extraordinary summit to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the eastern DRC. The presidents of the DRC and Rwanda and other regional leaders attended the summit, which resulted in a communiqué calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups. The summit also instructed the EAC chiefs of defence forces to meet urgently and set new timelines for the withdrawal of these forces. The EAC has been implementing a two-track approach, known as the Nairobi process, to address the situation in eastern DRC: facilitating political dialogue between the Congolese government and armed groups and deploying a regional force to deal with those who refuse to join the dialogue process.  

So far, three rounds of talks have been held under the Nairobi process, and in a 9 February press statement, the EAC Facilitator of the peace process in the eastern DRC, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, expressed his intention to convene the fourth round. The EAC regional force started deploying in eastern DRC in August 2022, and has recently taken up positions in areas from which the M23 has reportedly withdrawn, but has not yet engaged in offensive operations against armed groups. The EAC chiefs of defence forces met in Nairobi on 8-9 February based on the EAC summit decision to assess the security situation in eastern DRC, but the outcome of their meeting has not been made public. As the M23 continues to advance and control new territories in North Kivu, public sentiment towards the EAC regional force is souring in the region, with protests taking place against the force. The Congolese government insists on the need for the regional force to undertake offensive operations against M23.  

Council members have agreed on the terms of reference for the upcoming visiting mission, which France and Gabon are expected to co-lead. During the visit, Council members intend to meet with the Congolese government; leaders of political parties; civil society organisations, including women and youth; representatives from relevant regional organisations; the EAC Regional Force; MONUSCO; the UN country team and other UN entities; and humanitarian actors. The last Council visiting mission to the DRC was in October 2018 ahead of the general elections in that country on 23 December 2018. 

Sanctions-Related Developments 

The Group of Experts assisting the work of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee submitted its midterm report on 16 December 2022 pursuant to resolution 2641 of 30 June 2022. The report said that the group had found substantial evidence of direct Rwandan involvement in the DRC, either to reinforce the M23 or to conduct military operations against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and through the provision of weapons, ammunition, and uniforms to the M23. The report also detailed video, audio, and other documentation that substantiate the support and cooperation between FARDC and foreign and local armed groups operating in eastern DRC, including the FDLR.  

Human Rights-Related Developments  

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris visited the DRC from 13-22 February, during which she met with senior government officials, members of parliament, civil society representatives, and victims of human rights violations and abuses. Brands Kehris also visited the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.  

Key Issues and Options 

A key priority for Council members in March is likely to be the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and the increasing tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. This is also expected to figure prominently during the Council’s visiting mission to the DRC in March. Among other things, Council members may focus on the following major issues: 

  • assessing the security situation in the DRC and the efforts of MONUSCO to implement its mandate;  
  • assessing the humanitarian situation in the country, including efforts to ensure humanitarian access, protect refugees and IDPs, hold perpetrators of violence against civilians (including against children) accountable, and combat and prevent sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations; 
  • expressing support for the implementation of the Congolese government’s Demobilisation, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Program (P-DDRCS) and security sector reform; 
  • expressing support for ongoing regional efforts under the auspices of the EAC and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR); and 
  • encouraging all political stakeholders to continue to work towards the holding of peaceful, transparent, inclusive, and credible elections scheduled for December 2023. 

A possible option for Council members is to adopt a presidential statement following the visiting mission, among other things reaffirming the need to address the situation in eastern DRC within the framework of the ongoing regional initiatives and calling for the full and effective implementation of the decisions adopted by the EAC and ICGLR.  

Council Dynamics 

Council members support MONUSCO’s work and the gradual, responsible, and conditions-based drawdown of the mission. But the negotiations on the mission’s mandate renewal in December 2022 were difficult, with some members opposing references to civil society and human rights. The streamlining of the text also resulted in a significant reduction of thematic language, including on the protection of civilians. The negotiations were also complicated by the discussion about the lifting of the notification requirements under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. Although some Council members were not comfortable discussing the matter so far in advance of July, when the 1533 DRC sanctions regime is set to be extended, the Council voted on a separate resolution deciding to lift the notifications requirement and requesting that the Congolese government provide a report on its weapons and ammunition management no later than 31 May.  

The security situation in eastern DRC continues to be a major preoccupation. In the Council’s meeting on 9 December 2022, the US and France were openly critical of Rwanda’s alleged support for M23. In particular, the US “urge[d] Council members to consider how this kind of support runs afoul of existing sanctions regimes”. On the other hand, Rwanda is said to have proposed several names for designation under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime.  

Council members support ongoing regional initiatives to address the security situation in eastern DRC, but some members hesitate to express unqualified support to the EAC regional force in the absence of adequate information about its deployment. Council members are likely to continue emphasising the need to ensure accountability for crimes against peacekeepers, especially in light of deadly attacks on MONUSCO personnel in 2022. They may also continue to express grave concern over the alarming rise of hate speech, disinformation, and misinformation in eastern DRC and reiterate the need to strengthen MONUSCO’s strategic communications and enhance its community engagement.   

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

Sign up for SCR emails

Security Council Resolutions
20 December 2022S/RES/2667 This resolution lifted the notification requirements related to the arms embargo imposed within the framework of the 1533 DRC sanctions regime.
20 December 2022S/RES/2666 This resolution renewed MONUSCO’s mandate for one year until 20 December 2023.
Security Council Press Statements
6 February 2023SC/15193 This press statement was on the attack against MONUSCO.
3 February 2023SC/15191 This press statement was on the situation in the DRC.