March 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 February 2024
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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). The anticipated briefer is the Special Representative and Head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita.

Key Recent Developments

On 20 December 2023, the DRC held presidential, legislative, and provincial elections. The electoral process was marked by irregularities, including controversies around voter registration and delays in the opening of polling stations, among other things. On 31 December 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) declared Félix Antoine Tshisekedi the winner with 73 percent of the vote, but the opposition contested the results and called for a rerun. The aftermath of the elections also saw protests organised by the opposition in Kinshasa, which turned violent when the Congolese police tried to disperse demonstrators. Following confirmation of the election results by the Constitutional Court on 9 January, Tshisekedi was inaugurated for a second term on 20 January at a ceremony attended by regional leaders.

On 19 December 2023, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2717, renewing MONUSCO’s mandate for one year. According to the resolution, “the mission will withdraw its Force from South Kivu by the end of April 2024 and limit the implementation of its mandate to the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri from May 2024 until the end of the current mandate”. The Council requested the Congolese government and the UN to provide an update on the implementation of this drawdown process by June 2024 to inform the next steps in MONUSCO’s “gradual, responsible, and sustainable withdrawal” in accordance with resolution 2717.

Following the renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix visited the DRC from 1 to 7 February, where he discussed the security situation in the eastern part of the country, MONUSCO’s gradual and responsible drawdown, and the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse in meetings with MONUSCO staff, government officials (including President Tshisekedi), the leadership of the South African Development Community Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC), and civil society representatives. Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance Catherine Pollard and Special Coordinator for Improving UN Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Christian Saunders accompanied Lacroix on the visit. At France’s request, Lacroix and Pollard briefed the Council on 12 February in closed consultations. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 12 February.)

Following the meeting, Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (Guyana), in her capacity as February’s Council President, read out press elements in which Council members expressed concern about the escalating violence in eastern DRC and the ongoing tensions in the region. Council members condemned the offensive launched on 7 February by the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and the military activities of all other armed groups operating in the country. They also condemned the violence in Kinshasa on 10 February targeting UN personnel and other diplomatic missions and called for impartial investigations into the incidents.

On 20 February, the Security Council met again to consider the situation in the DRC. France, the penholder on the file, requested the meeting to discuss the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC, and Keita briefed the Council on the matter. (For more, see our What’s In Blue story of 19 February.)

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), which was deployed in eastern DRC under the framework of a regional initiative spearheaded by the East African Community (EAC) known as the Nairobi process, ceased operations when its mandate expired on 8 December 2023. The Congolese government chose not to extend the EACRF’s mandate, apparently disappointed by the force’s inability to neutralise the M23, and sought the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which decided on 8 May 2023 to deploy SAMIDRC in the eastern DRC. SAMIDRCcomposed of troops from Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania—has been deployed in North Kivu since December 2023, replacing the EACRF.

On 22 November 2023, SADC formally requested UN assistance for SAMIDRC, including facilities, equipment, air asset services, medical support, and information- and intelligence-sharing, among other forms of support. When renewing MONUSCO’s mandate in December 2023, the Council indicated its intention to evaluate the circumstances under which “limited logistical and operational assistance could be provided to an AU-mandated regional force deployed within MONUSCO’s operational area, in alignment with MONUSCO’s mandate and within existing resources”. It further requested the Secretary-General to submit a report in June, including his recommendations on this matter.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 7 January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk released a statement on the DRC. He raised concerns about the rise in ethnic-based hate speech and incitement to violence, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu and in the Kasaï and Katanga regions, after the December 2023 elections. He called on the authorities to thoroughly and transparently investigate all reports of hate speech and incitement to violence and to hold those responsible to account.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 20 February, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee approved the request by France, the UK, and the US for the designation of six individuals under its sanctions list: two from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and one each from the Twirwaneho armed group, the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC), M23, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Women, Peace and Security

Sandrine Lusamba—the national coordinator of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix—briefed the Council during the 11 December 2023 open briefing on the DRC. She said that since she last briefed the Council in 2021, the security situation in the DRC had deteriorated. Addressing MONUSCO’s drawdown, she said that civil society had received little information as to the disengagement plan for the mission. The mapping-out of the protection activities and capacities of the UN agencies that were identified under MONUSCO’s mandate was insufficient “in terms of needs analysis”, she added, and did not “take into account the contributions and participation of civil society”, hence failing to enable the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and the inclusion of young people. Among other recommendations, Lusamba said that “women should be at the centre” of MONUSCO’s and the UN Country Team’s work. She also recommended that MONUSCO and the UN Country Team work with local and national NGOs to develop indicators measuring “the protection and promotion of women’s human rights, including in the areas of gender-based violence, attacks on women human rights defenders, sexual and reproductive rights and the meaningful participation of women”.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for Council members in March is the worsening security situation in eastern DRC and heightened regional tensions. The insecurity has also exacerbated the humanitarian situation because of the massive displacement of people from the ongoing fighting in North Kivu. Council members are likely to reiterate the need to find a political solution to the situation in eastern DRC and continue expressing their support for regional initiatives.

The implementation of MONUSCO’s disengagement plan adopted by the Council pursuant to resolution 2717 is another key issue for Council members. They will be keen to receive updates on the mission’s drawdown from South Kivu by the end of April 2024 as part of this disengagement process.

Also an issue of major concern to Council members is the misinformation campaign against MONUSCO that resulted in the recent attack on the mission. On 10 February, violent protests erupted in Kinshasa, with MONUSCO being a primary target. The mission reported that several of its vehicles were set ablaze during the demonstrations.  Council members may continue to underscore the need to enhance the mission’s strategic communication efforts to counter increasing challenges posed by mis- and disinformation.

A possible option is a presidential statement to respond to some of the major developments in the DRC, including the security situation in eastern DRC, heightened regional tensions, and MONUSCO’s gradual and responsible drawdown.

Council Dynamics

At the 20 February meeting, Council members expressed serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in DRC and its broader ramifications for regional peace and stability. They called for de-escalation of tensions and the resolution of the situation through dialogue. Accordingly, Council members expressed support for regional initiatives, commending the role of Angolan President and chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) João Lourenço for convening a mini-summit on the situation in eastern DRC in Addis Ababa on 16 February on the margins of the AU Summit.

Some members condemned the recent attacks by the M23 near Sake, a town located 27 kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu. France condemned Rwanda’s support for the group and the presence of its forces on Congolese territory. “A threshold has been crossed with the deployment and use on Congolese territory of anti-aircraft systems that do not correspond to the capabilities of a simple armed group”, France added. The US also called on Rwandan forces to end their support to M23, withdraw from Congolese territory, and immediately remove all their surface-to-air missile systems. It further called for a serious evaluation of Rwanda’s role as a major UN troop-contributing country.

Council members condemned the attacks against MONUSCO and underscored the need to ensure the safety and security of peacekeepers. Regarding MONUSCO’s disengagement process and its withdrawal from South Kivu in April, several Council members cautioned against leaving a security vacuum that could exacerbate the security situation. The members of the “A3 plus one” grouping (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana) expressed hope that SAMIDRC’s support for the Congolese national army would prevent the advance of all armed groups and help stabilise the situation.

France is the penholder on the DRC. Ambassador Michael Imran Kanu (Sierra Leone) chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolution
19 December 2023S/RES/2717 This resolution extends the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
Secretary-General’s Report
30 November 2023S/2023/932 This was the Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO.
Security Council Presidential Statement
16 October 2023S/PRST/2023/5 This is the Security Council’s Presidential Statement on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Security Council Meeting Record
20 February 2024S/PV.9553 This was a meeting on the situation in the DRC.

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