April 2024 Monthly Forecast


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

Since the Council’s last meeting on the Great Lakes region, the security situation in eastern DRC has deteriorated significantly. Conflict between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) has intensified in North Kivu, the epicentre of the conflict. Various armed militias known locally as Wazalendo (patriots) are joining forces with the FARDC in the conflict. The deteriorating security situation has reportedly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the DRC with a massive displacement of people. Reports indicate that the M23 has gained control of several areas and is advancing towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu. In particular, fighting has been reported near Sake, a town located 27 kilometers from Goma.

The deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC has also increased regional tensions. On 17 February, a Congolese military aircraft stationed at the Goma airport reportedly sustained minor damage in a drone attack. The DRC accused Rwanda of instigating the attack. In an apparent response to this accusation, Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation alleged in an 18 February press statement that the DRC has been posing a threat to Rwanda, leading Kigali to adjust its security posture.

Rwanda also accused the DRC and Burundi of supporting regime change in Rwanda. These accusations followed a 12 February visit by Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye to Kinshasa, where he reportedly met with his Congolese counterpart to discuss the security situation in eastern DRC. Burundi has deployed forces in eastern DRC as part of a bilateral agreement with the Congolese government. Relations between Rwanda and Burundi have been strained since Burundi decided in January to close its borders with Rwanda, accusing it of supporting Burundian armed groups—an allegation Rwanda has denied. Burundi’s decision apparently came after a 22 December 2023 attack by Red Tabara, a Burundian armed group operating in eastern DRC, that targeted a village near Burundi’s western border with the DRC and reportedly left 20 dead, including 12 children.

On the margins of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in February, Angolan President and Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), João Lourenço, convened a mini-summit on 16 February that included regional leaders and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. Participants discussed ways to restore a cessation of hostilities and facilitate direct talks between the DRC and Rwanda to avoid a further expansion of the conflict into a regional crisis. Following the mini-summit, President Lourenço held bilateral meetings with the presidents of the DRC and Rwanda on 17 February. He continued his diplomatic engagement in Luanda, meeting with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame on 27 February and 11 March, respectively. Both leaders reportedly agreed in principle to meet for direct talks.

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) was stationed in eastern DRC for a year as part of the Nairobi process, a regional initiative led by the East African Community (EAC). However, EACRF ceased operations when its mandate expired on 8 December 2023; the Congolese government did not want to renew the EACRF’s mandate, seemingly dissatisfied with its inability to neutralise the M23. Instead, the Congolese government sought support from the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—which decided to deploy its forces, known as the SADC Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC)—in eastern DRC with an offensive mandate in support of the Congolese government’s military operations. The mission, comprising 5000 troops from Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania, started deploying in North Kivu in December 2023.

On 27 June 2023, a quadripartite summit of the EAC, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the ICGLR, and SADC was held in Luanda under the AU’s auspices. The meeting agreed on a joint framework to promote coherence among the existing initiatives of the four regional mechanisms engaged in the DRC, with a clear division of responsibilities and agreed timelines. In its 4 March communiqué, the AU Peace and Security Council requested the AU Commission to convene a second quadripartite summit to follow up on the implementation of commitments made during the first summit.

Women, Peace and Security

At the 86th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which took place from 9 to 27 October 2023, the CEDAW Committee decided to request the government of the DRC to submit an exceptional report on conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in its eastern provinces by April. During its 87th session, from 29 January to 16 February, the CEDAW Committee adopted a list of issues and questions for the DRC government to address in its exceptional report. Among other things, it asked the government to report on political and operational decisions it has taken to “ensure that the civilian population is protected against sexual violence and other related human rights violations” in eastern DRC, in particular after the departure of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO). The Committee also asked about measures taken by the government to strengthen the security of camps for internally displaced persons and “limit the circulation and proliferation of light weapons in and around the camps, including in the context of the gradual withdrawal of MONUSCO”.

Key Issues and Options   

A key issue in April is how to de-escalate the regional tensions in the Great Lakes region. Council members would be keen to hear from Xia on his office’s efforts, including his engagements with regional leaders in this regard.

A related issue is how to coordinate and harmonise the ongoing regional initiatives, which are supported by the Council. In this connection, Council members might be interested in receiving updates on progress in implementing the commitments made at the quadripartite summit. They may also welcome the intention to convene a second quadripartite summit.

Another important issue is the discussion about the revitalisation of the PSC-F to address the root causes of instability in the DRC and the Great Lakes region. Council members may wish to follow up on the decisions of the 11th meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism (ROM) of the PSC-F in Bujumbura and learn more about preparations for the upcoming ROM meeting in Uganda this year.

Support for regional forces deployed in eastern DRC is likely to be another major issue. On 22 November 2023, SADC sent a formal letter to the Secretary-General requesting UN support for the deployment of SAMIDRC, including facilities, equipment, air asset services, medical support, and information and intelligence-sharing, among other things. The Council’s decision on this matter will be informed by the Secretary-General’s upcoming report and recommendations pursuant to resolution 2717 of 19 December 2023. (For more, see the In Hindsight in our April Monthly Forecast.)

A possible option for Council members is to consult informally with SADC to have a better understanding of the deployment of SAMIDRC, its mandate and concept of operations, and its specific needs for support from the UN.

Council Dynamics  

Council members are broadly supportive of addressing the root causes and drivers of conflict in the Great Lakes region. They believe the principles and commitments enshrined in the PSC-F remain relevant and should be respected by the signatory countries. They also supported the decision to reinvigorate the PSC-F. Council members agree that there is no military solution to the situation in eastern DRC and remain fully supportive of the efforts to find a political solution through the ongoing regional initiatives under the auspices of the EAC and the ICGLR. They may particularly welcome the role being played by Lourenço in trying to facilitate talks between the DRC and Rwanda to ease the tensions between the two countries.

Council members are concerned about the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in the Great Lakes region, including the massive displacement of people due to the ongoing fighting in eastern DRC and human rights violations such as sexual exploitation and abuse. Some members continue to call for full adherence to international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as stress the need to ensure accountability and justice for human rights abuses and crimes committed in eastern DRC.

The increasing level of hate speech and incitement to violence against Kinyarwanda communities in eastern DRC has raised significant concerns among some Council members. This issue is expected to gain heightened attention in April, coinciding with the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis.

Council members have also highlighted the need to address the illegal exploitation of natural resources, which is fuelling the conflict in eastern DRC. They support the implementation of the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention, and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region, which was developed by the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes. One of the key priorities of the strategy is promoting sustainable and transparent management of natural resources, as well as trade and investment.

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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
Secretary-General’s Report
3 October 2023S/2023/730 This report 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
17 October 2023S/PV.9440 This was a briefing on the situation in the Great Lakes region.

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