High-Level Debate on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tomorrow (25 July), the Council will hold a high-level debate on the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with US Secretary of State John Kerry presiding. Several other Council members are expected to attend at minister level. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, will brief the Council.
All three briefers were in the region from 22 to 24 May and are likely to discuss the details of their trip, as well as the first meeting of the regional oversight mechanism for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC (the Framework Agreement) which took place in Addis Ababa on 26 May. Robinson may also report on progress made towards establishing benchmarks to assess the implementation of the framework and Kim may elaborate on the World Bank’s $1 billion planned funding of development projects in the region.
A presidential statement which Council members have been negotiating since last week is likely to be adopted at the meeting. The draft text expresses support for the Framework Agreement of 24 February and calls on the DRC and countries in the region to implement their respective agreements. In particular, it calls on the DRC to consolidate state authority and pursue institutional reforms and on all countries in the region to refrain from supporting armed groups and to respect the territorial integrity of other countries.
In addition the draft presidential statement demands that the M23, the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-NALU), the Mayi Mayi Kata-Katanga and all other armed groups cease immediately all forms of violence and stresses that all perpetrators of such abuses and violations should be held accountable. In particular, it condemns the attacks launched from 20 to 22 May 2013 and again on 14 July 2013 by the M23 in the vicinity of Goma.
The draft presidential statement also covers attacks by ADF-NALU on 11 July 2013 against the Congolese army and on 14 July 2013 against MONUSCO. These attacks which resulted in casualties from both the Congolese Army (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo, or FARDC) and MONUSCO also prompted over 60,000 Congolese to flee to Uganda.
During the negotiations, It seems there were some differences between Rwanda and several other members over the balance in the draft text when addressing the threat posed by the M23 and the FDLR, and in particular, if and how to address Rwandan concerns of FARDC-FDLR cooperation. It seems that the compromise was to express concern over increased FDLR activities, including in Rwanda, but not highlight the alleged relations between the FDLR and the FARDC.
The draft went under silence procedure on Monday evening until the following morning. However, Rwanda broke silence as apparently it felt that some of its concerns regarding territorial integrity of the countries in the region had not been taken into account. It also seems that Russia had some issues with language related to humanitarian access. At press time, bilateral negotiations were ongoing but there was a general sense that as the differences were not insurmountable agreement would be reached in time for the presidential statement to be adopted tomorrow.
Council members have met three times this month to discuss the DRC. On 11 July, Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed the Council on the latest MONUSCO report (S/2013/388). During the meeting, Rwanda elaborated on alleged cooperation between the Congolese army and the FDLR. It also claimed that the commanders of the newly established intervention brigade, which is to complete deployment in the next few weeks, and the FDLR have been coordinating operations as well. It said that it has evidence in Kigali to back these accusations. These allegations were also conveyed officially in a letter to the Council president on 9 July (S/2013/402). The DRC responded on 15 July denying the allegations (S/2013/414). (On a separate issue, on 16 July Rwanda sent another letter to the Council, calling on the Council to take appropriate measures, after two mortar shells landed in its territory on 15 July.)
On 19 July, the DRC Sanctions Committee received the Group of Experts (GoE) interim report. Though yet to be published, information leaked to the press indicates that the report finds continued (if to a lesser degree) ties between Rwanda and the M23. The GoE seems to have also indicated that some FARDC commanders have been cooperating with the FDLR. Though Rwanda has refused to cooperate with the GoE and denies the allegations against it by the GoE, it did not try to block the publication of the report, and most Committee members appear to agree with the report’s recommendations. On 22 July, the Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev (Azerbaijan) gave a the chair’s regular briefing and presented the GoE report to Council members during consultations on the work of the Committee.