September 2023 Monthly Forecast

AFRICA

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). The anticipated briefer is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in DRC and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita.

Key Recent Developments

Following the July 2022 anti-MONUSCO protests that led to the death of four peacekeepers, the Congolese government requested an accelerated implementation of MONUSCO’s transition plan. This is aimed at fast-tracking the mission’s drawdown and exit after the national elections scheduled for December. Subsequently, MONUSCO engaged with the Congolese government to identify the key benchmarks that would create the minimum security conditions for the mission’s withdrawal. The Congolese government expressed its intention to retain only four of the 18 benchmarks contained in the transition plan—namely the protection of civilians; implementation of the Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS); security sector reform; and the electoral process—and to transfer the remaining benchmarks to the UN country team for their implementation.

Accordingly, it seems that an understanding has been reached between the Congolese government and MONUSCO on these four benchmarks, which are also aligned with the mission’s priority tasks outlined in resolution 2666 of 20 December 2022. This resolution, which renewed MONUSCO’s mandate, requested the Secretary-General to provide options for adapting MONUSCO’s configuration. The options were expected to take into account the mission’s role in light of other existing international, regional, and bilateral initiatives in support of the DRC. These include diplomatic efforts spearheaded by the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to address the situation in eastern DRC, known as the Nairobi and Luanda processes, respectively. The EAC also deployed a regional force (EACRF) in areas vacated by the 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—to pave the way for a dialogue process. As described below, the South African Development Community (SADC) is also preparing to deploy troops in eastern DRC later this year.

The Secretary-General submitted his report pursuant to resolution 2666 on 2 August with a proposal to reconfigure MONUSCO with the goal of facilitating the implementation of the joint revised transition plan and supporting regional peace initiatives. The report proposes that the mission’s footprint in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu, which continue to face persistent insecurity, be consolidated, and then gradually reduced as the Congolese government extends its authority and regional initiatives advance. In particular, the report proposes the withdrawal of all units from South Kivu (southern sector), one battalion from North Kivu (central sector), and some specialist units, military observers, and staff officers in the mission. The proposed withdrawals would reduce the mission’s deployed strength from 12,500 to approximately 10,500 military personnel. This consolidation would still allow the mission to focus on North Kivu and Ituri and maintain a projection capacity in South Kivu, according to the report. Additionally, the report envisages a further drawdown of all remaining units from North Kivu (central sector), which would leave MONUSCO with approximately 8,500 military personnel (no timeframe was indicated), based on the assumption that the Congolese government enhances its presence in these provinces with the support of regional security forces.

The Congolese government, frustrated by the EACRF’s perceived lack of willingness to engage in combat operations against M23, has turned its attention towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC). On 11 July, 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—held its extraordinary summit virtually 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 approved the mandate and supporting legal and operational instruments for deploying the SADC Mission in DRC (SADCIDRC). According to the Chairperson of the SADC Troika, SADCIDRC is expected to be deployed by 30 September.

While Council members welcomed the various initiatives by regional mechanisms, they have underscored the need to ensure that these regional initiatives are complementary and mutually reinforcing. On 27 June, a Quadripartite Summit of the EAC, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), ICGLR, and SADC was held in Luanda under the AU’s auspices. Other participants included the DRC, Rwanda, and the UN. The meeting agreed on a joint framework that seeks to promote coherence of the existing peace initiatives of the four regional mechanisms with a clear division of responsibilities and agreed timelines.

Women, Peace and Security

On 14 July, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten briefed the Security Council at its annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). She said that, with 701 CRSV violations, the DRC presented the highest number of UN-verified cases of CRSV in 2022. Patten added, however, that thousands more cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported by UN humanitarian service providers, “including alarming levels of sexual exploitation of children at more than 1,000 sites in and around displacement camps”. Addressing the prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated against women carrying out livelihood activities around the camps, such as searching for food and collecting wood or water, Patten said that “women and girls face an unacceptable choice between economic subsistence and sexual violence and between their livelihoods and their lives” and underscored the importance of not underestimating “how food insecurity increases the risk of exposure to sexual violence”.

Key Issues and Options

Key issues for the Council in September are the Secretary-General’s options for MONUSCO’s reconfiguration and the implementation of the mission’s transition plan. MONUSCO’s revised transition plan and the Secretary-General’s report on its reconfiguration are also likely to inform the upcoming mandate renewal negotiations in December. A possible option is for the penholder to convene an expert-level informal meeting to reflect on the progress and challenges in the implementation of MONUSCO’s transition plan and unpack the contents of the Secretary-General’s report and recommendations. This may not be adequately discussed by Council members in the regular briefing and consultations, and the informal meeting would provide an opportunity for the experts to gain a nuanced understanding of the transition process and the implications of the mission’s reconfiguration as they prepare for the upcoming mandate renewal negotiations in December.

The implementation of the revised transition plan and the mission’s reconfiguration depends on national elections planned for December. In this regard, Council members might be interested to learn more about the preparations for these elections.

The security situation in eastern DRC also remains a major concern, and Council members might be keen to follow up on the progress in the ongoing regional initiatives under the Nairobi and Luanda processes. A possible option for Council members is to adopt a press statement reacting to some of the regional developments, including the Quadripartite Summit.

Council Dynamics

Council members have been broadly supportive of implementing MONUSCO’s transition plan in a phased and responsible manner, contingent upon the improvement of the security situation on the ground. At the last meeting of the Council on the situation in DRC on 26 June, the US in particular expressed concerns about the Congolese government’s increasing calls for MONUSCO to leave following the elections in December. They argued that the minimum conditions agreed by the Congolese government and MONUSCO will not be met and warned that the mission’s hasty withdrawal is likely to create a security vacuum with devastating effects for civilians. The UK also underscored the need to draw lessons from previous peacekeeping closures to avoid repeating past mistakes in DRC.

Council members support ongoing regional initiatives to address the security situation in the eastern DRC, but they are likely to welcome the convening of the Quadripartite Summit and take note of its outcome, which could contribute to ensuring the necessary complementarity and coherence between these regional initiatives.

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

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UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Security Council Resolution
27 June 2023S/RES/2688 The resolution extends the 1533 DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2024 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2024.
Secretary-General’s Report
2 August 2023S/2023/574 The Secretary-General’s report is on options for adapting the configuration of MONUSCO and the future UN configuration in the country beyond the current mandate of the mission.
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
26 June 2023S/PV.9358 This was a meeting on the situation in the DRC.

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