What's In Blue

Posted Wed 27 Mar 2013

Adoption of a Resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tomorrow afternoon the Council is set to adopt a resolution establishing a new mandate for the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2014. The draft resolution was put in blue this afternoon following bilateral negotiations between France, the penholder on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guatemala which had broken silence this morning.

Negotiations on the text began last Thursday (21 March) after the Council received the Secretary-General’s special report on possible options and their implications for reinforcing the capability of MONUSCO (S/2013/119). The report had been requested in a 19 October 2012 presidential statement [S/PRST/2012/22] and resolution 2076 of 20 November 2012.

In the special report, as part of the strategy to address the threat posed by armed groups in the DRC, the Secretary-General recommended that the Council establish an “intervention brigade” under the command of MONUSCO and operating alongside it. This brigade would be tasked with preventing the expansion of armed groups, neutralising and disarming them, and include three infantry battalions deployed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The special report also reiterated the efforts described in the Secretary-General’s latest periodic report on MONUSCO of 15 February (S/2013/96), to begin transferring responsibility for MONUSCO’s tasks to the UN Country Team (UNCT) in areas not affected by armed conflict, underlining the intent to eventually withdraw the mission from those areas and to maximise the use of resources.

In line with the recommendations in the special report, the draft resolution establishes, within the current MONUSCO troop authorisation of 19,815, an intervention brigade consisting of three infantry batallions and auxiliary forces under MONUSCO command based in Goma. Its key task appears to be to carry out offensive operations to neutralise armed groups in order to reduce the threat to state and civilian security thus making space for stabilisation activities.

In addition, the draft resolution authorises MONUSCO, through its regular forces as well as this new intervention brigade, to carry out the following tasks: protection of civilians, monitoring the implementation of the arms embargo and providing support to national and international judicial processes. It seems that some in the UN human rights community have expressed concern about the protection of civilians and human rights violations coming under the military component of MONUSCO since in the past these were mission-wide responsibilities. In monitoring the implementation of the arms embargo in cooperation with the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, the draft resolution places particular emphasis on cross-border flows of military personnel and arms, including by using surveillance capabilities such as unmanned aerial systems.

Also in line with the special report, the draft resolution authorises MONUSCO to contribute, in coordination with the UNCT, to various tasks and to transfer, as soon as feasible, any other tasks to the UNCT and to shift its presence from western to eastern DRC to the fullest extent possible.

The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to review and update MONUSCO’s mission concept and rules of engagement. It seems that Guatemala wanted to include a reference that this would be done in consultation with troop-contributing countries (TCCs) as appropriate, but the version that is in blue seems to indicate that this was not accepted by France.

In addition the draft resolution demands that all parties fulfill their obligations under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region (PSC Framework) signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February with the Secretary-General and regional bodies as guarantors. (The PSC Framework and the commitments from the countries are annexed to the resolution). It also calls on the newly appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, to lead its implementation. The draft resolution states that the Council will take appropriate measures in case of noncompliance.

In terms of reporting, the Secretary-General is asked to report to the Council every three months, including on the implementation of the PSC Framework and any risks posed to UN personnel stemming from the actions of the “intervention brigade”. It also expresses the Council’s intention to review progress in the implementation of the PSC Framework following the first visit to the region by the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. (No timeframe is given for this visit.)

Many Council members have expressed their skepticism about the capability of the new intervention brigade to neutralise armed groups and restore stability in the eastern DRC. Nevertheless, it seems that lacking any alternative ideas or political resolve to invest in addressing the root causes of conflict in the region, Council members are willing to endorse a course of action put forward by the regional actors.

Some Council members, in particular the TCCs on the Council like Guatemala and Pakistan, are concerned about the blurring of the lines between traditional peacekeeping and robust peace enforcement both as a matter of principle and because their own peacekeepers lives are at greater risk. Guatemala particularly was of the view the intervention brigade may compromise the impartiality which is so essential to peacekeeping and affect the capacity of MONUSCO to act as an honest broker.

In an attempt to assuage these concerns during the negotiations language was inserted highlighting the “exceptional basis” of the intervention brigade and it not creating “a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping”. Changes were also made to the language defining the exact role of the brigade vis-à-vis MONUSCO in neutralising armed groups. Language on the necessity of a “clear exit strategy” for the brigade was also added, possibly to alleviate fears that this is a long-term solution to the problems in the DRC, although the draft recognises that this is largely contingent on the creation of a DRC “Rapid Reaction Force” capable of taking over responsibility from the intervention brigade.

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