Consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tomorrow morning (12 September), Council members will be briefed in consultations on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, are likely to brief via video-teleconference. While a text has yet to be circulated to Council members, a press statement may be issued following the briefing, which was requested by France, the penholder on the DRC.
Council members will be interested in hearing the latest on the situation on the ground and on recent diplomatic efforts by Robinson and Kobler to calm the situation in the eastern DRC.
They will also be interested to hear Robinson’s impressions from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) summit she attended on 5 September that dealt with the situation in the eastern DRC and called for the resumption of the Kampala talks. While supportive of a negotiation process, some Council members have nonetheless been ambivalent about the Kampala talks, which have resumed as called for by the ICGLR summit, because they could lead to a reintegration of the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group into the DRC military (FARDC) without addressing issues of accountability. Furthermore, there are concerns that reintegrated rebels may not forfeit their allegiance to non-government forces. (The Kampala talks were to resume within three days of the ICGLR summit for no longer than 14 days.)
Council members have been briefed on the DRC several times in recent weeks. On 22 August, at the request of the Secretariat, Council members received two briefings from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet under “any other business” on ongoing fighting between the M23 and the FARDC in North Kivu which began the day before.
A draft press statement circulated by France condemning M23 attacks against civilians and MONUSCO was put under silence that evening. Rwanda broke silence claiming that both sides should be called upon to cease hostilities and emphasising the implementation of the 24 February 2013 Peace and Security Framework Agreement and the importance of the Kampala talks between the M23 and the DRC. At that point, Council members were unable to reach consensus on agreed language and the press statement appears to have been put aside with the understanding that there would be further briefings. (Rwanda likewise broke silence on a draft press statement in June.)
Fighting escalated further in the following days. On 24 August, three civilians in Goma were killed by mortar shells fired by the M23 according to MONUSCO. A day later two more died during demonstrations that broke out in the wake of the shelling. According to media reports, peacekeepers from Uruguay shot the two civilians as a crowd was attempting to storm a MONUSCO base during a protest against UN inaction. Kobler announced that a joint DRC-MONUSCO investigation would look into the incident.
Fighting continued as the newly formed MONUSCO “intervention brigade” joined the FARDC in an offensive against the M23. During the fighting, a Tanzanian peacekeeper from the intervention brigade was killed and seven other troops were injured on 28 August. On 30 August, the M23 rebels suspended fighting and withdrew from their positions, in order to allow for an independent investigation into the source of mortar shells fired into Rwanda, according to M23 leader, Bertrand Bisimwa.
On 29 August, almost a week after the escalation in violence, Mulet again briefed Council members. Mulet told them that MONUSCO witnessed mortar shells shot from positions held by the M23 towards Rwanda and witnessed Rwandan troops crossing the border into DRC. Rwanda categorically rejected accusations of border crossing and claimed that it has evidence that the mortars were shot by the FARDC and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda rebel group. Rwanda also requested that the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) for border issues between Rwanda and the DRC investigate the matter.
The Council issued a press statement (SC/11108) after the meeting, condemning the recent attacks by the M23 against civilians and MONUSCO. Council members also expressed concern at reports of repeated mortar shells and bombs fired into Rwanda, and called for a thorough investigation into the sources of these shells and bombs by the EJVM.
The signatories and guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement, the “11+4”, are scheduled to meet at the margins of the General Assembly later this month.