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). The anticipated briefer is the Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in the eastern DRC continues to be a major concern. Regional efforts under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), known as the Nairobi and Luanda processes, have been focused on securing a ceasefire, the withdrawal of the M23 Movement (M23, an armed group operating in the DRC’s North Kivu province that was dormant in the past decade and became active again in 2022) from occupied areas, the disarmament and cantonment of its combatants, and the search for political solutions through dialogue.
Notwithstanding ongoing tensions, a ceasefire agreed in March has led to a fragile calm in the region. Briefing the Security Council on 19 April, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia said that there had been no recent reports of major clashes between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the M23. The group has withdrawn from several localities in North Kivu, as verified by the various mechanisms of the EAC and ICGLR. While the ceasefire seems to be holding, Xia noted that the withdrawal of M23 from occupied areas remains incomplete and that the disarmament and cantonment of combatants and the search for a durable political solution are still pending. Other local and external armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and the Résistance pour un État de droit au Burundi (RED Tabara) continue to cause havoc in the region, he said.
Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator for the Nairobi peace process in the eastern DRC, convened a planning workshop ahead of the fourth round of talks, which are expected to take place in the DRC. (The three previous rounds were held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2022.) The EAC Regional Force (EACRF) announced full deployment status following the arrival of the South Sudanese contingent in the eastern DRC in April. There has been disagreement, however, between the Congolese government and the EACRF regarding the force’s mandate. While the Congolese government wants the EACRF to undertake offensive operations against the M23, EACRF troop-contributing countries said that they were not in the DRC to fight the group. It is against this backdrop that the EACRF force commander, Major General Jeff Nyagah (Kenya), resigned from his position. Nyagah reportedly cited “an aggravated threat to [his] safety and a systemic plan to frustrate efforts of the EACRF” in a 27 April letter to the EAC Secretary-General, although the authenticity of this letter has not been verified.
Subsequently, Kenya appointed Major General Alphaxard Muthuri Kiugu to replace Nyagah. The Congolese government expressed displeasure with Kenya’s decision, arguing that it was made without any consultation. It now says that the regional force will have to leave in June when its mandate expires if its performance is found to be unsatisfactory. (EACRF was deployed for an initial period of six months, which expired in March. Although the EAC wanted a six-month extension of the mandate, it seems the Congolese government only agreed to three months.) The EAC chair, Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye, is expected to convene an extraordinary summit to discuss these issues.
The Congolese government, frustrated by the EACRF, has turned its attention towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC). On 8 May, the SADC Troika—consisting of the chairperson (Namibia), the incoming chairperson (Zambia), and the previous chairperson (South Africa) of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security—met in Windhoek, Namibia to discuss the situation in eastern DRC. The meeting was also attended by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, the current chair of SADC, and troop-contributing countries of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade, namely Malawi, Tanzania, and South Africa. The meeting decided to deploy a SADC Force to restore peace and stability in eastern DRC, among other things.
On 6 May, the 11th meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM) of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region (PSC-F) was held in Bujumbura, Burundi in the presence of regional leaders, Secretary-General António Guterres, and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. Tshisekedi, who held the rotating chairmanship of the ROM for the past year, handed over the baton to Ndayishimiye. The meeting reviewed recent developments in the DRC and the Great Lakes region and discussed progress and challenges in the implementation of the PSC-F, which marked its tenth anniversary on 24 February. The communiqué adopted at the end of the ROM meeting underscored the need “to conduct an independent, frank, and sincere assessment” to revitalise the PSC-F. The assessment is expected to include PSC-F’s strengths and weaknesses and the signatory countries’ adherence to its principles and commitments. Its conclusions and recommendations are expected to be discussed at the next ROM meeting, which takes place once a year at the heads of state and government level.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 22 February, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris concluded her official visit to the DRC. In a statement after the visit, Brands Kehris expressed strong concern about the deterioration of security in eastern DRC and strongly condemned ongoing brutal attacks against civilians and “documented human rights violations and mass killings”. She echoed the Secretary-General’s push for “action for peace” in Africa and urged the authorities to “redouble their efforts to counter rising hatred and implement targeted initiatives to promote trust and cohesion within communities”.
On 20 December 2022, the Council adopted resolution 2667, lifting the advance notification requirement for any shipment of arms and related material or any provision of assistance, advice, or training related to military activities in the DRC. The Council also requested the Congolese government to submit to it a confidential report on efforts to ensure the safe and effective management of weapons and ammunition, which was due by the end of May.
On 9 May, the Committee met to receive a briefing from MONUSCO representatives on the presence of armed groups, the illicit exploitation of natural resources, and the proliferation of arms and related material. Rwanda is said to have proposed several names for designation under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. Several Council members put holds on the list. Although it seems that Russia has partially lifted its hold, other Council members have maintained their holds on the list, which has prevented the names from being designated.
The chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Ambassador Ivan Šimonović (Croatia), briefed the Council at its 19 April meeting on the Great Lakes region. Šimonović highlighted 13 different messages and actions for the Council’s consideration. These included: encouraging the Council to call for the implementation by all states of the commitments in the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region; calling for strengthened international support to alleviate the extreme humanitarian situation in the eastern DRC; and stressing the need to increase national and regional efforts to involve young people in political processes and socio-economic development. Šimonović also encouraged the Council to express support for efforts to establish the sustainable and transparent management of natural resources and to continue to reiterate the importance of a strategic and coherent approach by the UN and stakeholders to sustain peacebuilding gains, particularly in the context of MONUSCO’s transition.
Key Issues and Options
A key priority for Council members in June is the extension of the 1533 DRC sanctions regime, which is set to expire on 1 July, and the mandate renewal of the Group of Experts, which will expire on 1 August.
The other issue is the security situation in eastern DRC. Council members might be interested in following up on the progress in the ongoing regional initiatives under the Nairobi and Luanda processes as well as the outcomes of the meeting of the RoM and the SADC Troika summit. A possible option is to issue a press statement welcoming the holding of the RoM meeting and supporting the revitalisation of the PSC framework.
The negotiations on MONUSCO’s mandate renewal in December 2022 were complicated by the discussion on lifting the notification requirements under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. Some Council members were not comfortable discussing the matter during a MONUSCO mandate renewal since the sanctions regime was set to be extended in June, but the Council eventually voted on a separate resolution, lifting the notification requirement. Therefore, the upcoming negotiation is not expected to be contentious, with Council members likely to agree to a straightforward renewal of the sanctions regime for another year. Nonetheless, some Council members might be interested in the Congolese government’s confidential report on its weapons and ammunition management.
Council members support ongoing regional initiatives to address the security situation in the eastern DRC, but during the negotiation on the draft presidential statement adopted following the Council’s visiting mission to the DRC in March, there was no agreement on language welcoming the deployment of EACRF. The final text “acknowledges” the deployment. Council members have been emphasising the need to ensure that the regional efforts are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The decision by SADC to deploy its force in eastern DRC, in addition to the EAC regional force and other bilateral forces already on the ground, is likely to raise issues of coordination. The AU is expected to convene a meeting of the EAC, the Economic Community of Central African States, ICGLR, and SADC to work toward this objective.
France is the penholder on the DRC. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
|Security Council Resolution|
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|29 March 2023S/PRST/2023/3||This was a presidential statement adopted by the Security Council following its visiting mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which took place between 9 and 12 March 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|29 March 2023S/PV.9298||The meeting record was on the situation in the DRC.|