Great Lakes Region (DRC)
Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Huang Xia, is expected to provide the biannual briefing to the Council in April on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework (PSC-F) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region.
Key Recent Developments
Peace and stability continue to elude DRC and the region. The deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC, with the military activities of various armed groups, has caused a major humanitarian crisis, displacing five million people and stoking tensions between countries of the region. In his statement marking the tenth anniversary of the PSC-F on 24 February, Xia noted the persistent peace and security challenges in the region and called on signatory countries of the PSC-F to renew their commitment to work towards restoring regional peace and stability.
On 17 February, the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) held a mini-summit in Addis Ababa on the margins of the AU Summit to discuss the security situation in eastern DRC. The two organisations have been leading regional mediation efforts known respectively as the Nairobi and Luanda processes to address the situation in eastern DRC and ease the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. The outcome of their mini-summit fed into the discussions at the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) meeting held the same day at the level of heads of state and government to consider the situation in the eastern DRC. The AUPSC, among other things, reaffirmed through its communiqué that the PSC-F “remains a viable instrument to support the DRC and institutions in the region to achieve peace and stability”, and called for its “urgent revitalization”.
Angolan President João Lourenço, the ICGLR Chair, engaged recently with the M23, a resurgent armed group operating in the DRC’s North Kivu province that was dormant in the past decade and became active again in 2022, to secure a ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on 7 March. Fighting continued unabated, however, with the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) accusing the M23 of violating the ceasefire. Subsequently, Angola decided to deploy 500 troops in North Kivu for 12 months to secure areas where the M23 is supposed to be stationed after a ceasefire and to protect members of the Ad-Hoc Verification Mechanism established under the Luanda process.
On 4 February, the EAC heads of state and government held their 20th extraordinary summit in Bujumbura, Burundi, to discuss the security situation in eastern DRC. They called for an immediate ceasefire by all parties and the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups. The EAC has set up its own monitoring and verification mechanism in addition to the existing mechanisms deployed by the ICGLR in eastern DRC. The EAC summit directed all troop-contributing countries of the EAC Regional Force (EACRF) to deploy their forces immediately. So far, Kenya and Burundi have done so, with Uganda and South Sudan expected to follow suit. The EAC facilitator for the Nairobi process, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, was planning to convene a fourth round of dialogue between the Congolese government and armed groups in mid-February in eastern DRC but it has not yet happened. (The previous three rounds of dialogue were held in Nairobi.) In January, Kenyatta met with the chairman and senior political and military leaders of the M-23 group in Mombasa, Kenya. In March, he met with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, DRC.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) also focused on the situation in eastern DRC in the 31 January summit of its Troika—consisting of the chairperson, the incoming chairperson, and the outgoing chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security, currently Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa, respectively)—in Windhoek, Namibia. The summit decided to initiate dialogue with the different sub-regional organisations that have deployed forces in the DRC to promote effective coordination of interventions in the DRC. SADC also sent a field assessment mission to eastern DRC from 27 February to 8 March. Furthermore, the situation in eastern DRC was a subject of discussion at the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which held its ordinary summit in Kinshasa on 25 February. Tshisekedi handed over the rotating ECCAS chairmanship to Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Rwanda, which is also a member of ECCAS, reportedly complained that it had been excluded from participating in the summit hosted by the DRC.
Council members visited the DRC from 9 to 12 March to assess the security situation in the country and the implementation of the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). They met with Congolese senior government officials, parliamentarians, political parties, civil society representatives, MONUSCO, and the UN country team. Council members also visited Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, to meet with provincial authorities and speak with internally displaced persons. (For coverage of the visiting mission, please read our “Dispatches from the Field” in What’s in Blue.) At the time of writing, Council members were negotiating a draft presidential statement proposed by France, the penholder on the DRC and the Great Lakes, as a follow-up to the visit.
Women, Peace and Security
On 12 March, the last day of the Council’s visiting mission to the DRC, Council members held a working breakfast with women civil society representatives and visited the Bushangara camp on the outskirts of Goma, which hosts internally displaced persons (IDPs). At the working breakfast, women civil society representatives highlighted the hardship that Congolese women had endured over the past two decades. Pointing to widespread rapes, including in IDP camps, they underscored that violence is being used against women and girls as a weapon of war.
The civil society representatives described recent attacks and violence against civilians perpetrated by armed groups, the economic insecurity faced by women in eastern DRC, and drew attention to the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the impact of the conflict on education. The representatives said that while women play a key role in supporting those affected by conflict, they are left out of peace processes and stressed the importance of peace for women’s participation in the upcoming elections as both voters and candidates.
Council members assured the representatives that their testimonies will be considered in Council discussions and actions. Members also emphasised that the Council can only support efforts by the Congolese themselves, however, and encouraged the civil society representatives to work towards finding local solutions by actively engaging with their government.
Ahead of the 29 March Council briefing on the DRC, the members that endorsed the 1 December 2021 Shared Commitments on Women, Peace and Security, joined by Ghana, Mozambique and the US in their national capacity, delivered a statement at the stakeout. The statement included a segment in French directed to women leaders in the DRC which said: “We heard you. Today we share your message to the Security Council. We will not spare our efforts to translate your recommendations into actions”.
Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Developments
The PBC submitted written advice on the Great Lakes region to Council members in a letter dated 21 October, ahead of the Council’s 26 October 2022 briefing on the situation. The PBC stressed the importance of involving civil society and traditional leaders in dialogue initiatives and underscored the need to promote the sustainable and transparent management of natural resources in the region. It urged the adoption and implementation of national action plans on youth, peace and security across the region in line with resolution 2250. The PBC also underlined the need for the Special Envoy to undertake a comprehensive mapping exercise on stabilisation efforts in the eastern part of the DRC and the wider region to promote strategic alignment.
On 31 October 2022, the PBC met on the Great Lakes region to be updated on political processes in the region and mobilise diplomatic and financial support for flagship initiatives derived from the UN Strategy for Peacebuilding, Prevention and Resolution of Conflicts in the Great Lakes Region Action Plan. The session included briefings by Special Envoy Xia; the Special Envoy of EAC Facilitator of the Nairobi Process, Macharia Kamau; and MONUSCO Deputy Special Representative and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC Bruno Lemarquis.
Burundi informed the PBC in November 2022 of its decision to end the commission’s country configuration on Burundi, which was established in 2006 as one of the PBC’s first agenda situations. A 30 November 2022 PBC meeting explored possible forms of future cooperation between the PBC and Burundi. The configuration, which had been chaired by Switzerland since 2009, officially concluded on 31 December 2022.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council remains 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 efforts through the Nairobi and Luanda processes.
The other major issue is how to continue supporting the full and effective implementation of the PSC-F to promote peace and security in the Great Lakes region. A possible option is for Council members to adopt a resolution marking the 10th anniversary of the PSC-F, and requesting the Secretary-General to present, as part of his next biannual report, concrete recommendations, following consultations with the signatory states and guarantors, on how the PSC-F can be revitalised.
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 are likely to continue to emphasise that there is no military solution to the situation in eastern DRC and reaffirm their support for a peaceful solution through dialogue within the framework of the ongoing regional initiatives. But they may also stress the need for enhanced coordination and harmonisation of regional efforts, with the support of MONUSCO and the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region. In the context of addressing the root causes of conflict, Council members may continue to support efforts to counter the illegal exploitation of natural resources and underline the need to implement the various regional and continental frameworks to identify and trace minerals illegally exploited from the DRC.
During the March visiting mission, the Congolese authorities accused Rwanda of stoking the conflict by continuing to support the M23 Movement, and in this regard, referred to the findings of the most recent report of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, dated 16 December 2022. Calling on Council members not to remain silent in the face of evidence provided by this report, the officials asked that sanctions be imposed on Rwanda. While this does not currently appear feasible, the Council may consider designating individuals and entities that are engaged in undermining the DRC’s peace and security in the context of the 1533 DRC Sanctions regime. Rwanda is also said to have proposed several names for designation under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime; some Council members have asked to put these requests on hold.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE GREAT LAKES
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|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.|
|4 October 2022S/2022/735||This is the Secretary-General’s Report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 October 2022S/PV.9165||A Security Council meeting on the Situation in the Great Lakes.|