Briefings on the Security Council’s Visiting Mission and on the UN Mission in the DRC
On Monday (21 October), the Security Council will be briefed by the lead countries of the various legs of the recent Security Council visiting mission to Africa from 4-8 October. Morocco will brief on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) leg which was co-led with France; the US and UK will brief on the Rwanda and Uganda legs respectively; and Rwanda will brief on the Addis Ababa leg which was co-led with Azerbaijan. (For more background on the Council’s visiting mission please see What’s in Blue’s Dispatches from the Field.)
Many of the same messages Council members received in the Great Lakes Region are also likely to come up during the briefing and consultations on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) that will directly follow the visiting mission briefing. The Council will be briefed by Special Representative Martin Kobler, on the Secretary-General’s most recent MONUSCO report (S/2013/581), and by Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region (PSC Framework).
Council members will be interested to hear views from all briefers on the status of the PSC Framework, in particular what key signatories—such as the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda—are doing to implement their commitments; the progress of the Uganda-mediated Kampala talks between the March 23 (M23) rebel group and the DRC government; and the impact of MONUSCO’s intervention brigade on the eastern DRC.
At press time, it seemed no outcome was expected following the briefings. However, some Council members have indicated that the Council may need to issue a statement if there is progress over the weekend with the Kampala talks.
While on mission, Council members were given the impression by the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda that an agreement between the M23 and the DRC was imminent as a result of the Kampala talks. However, two major obstacles to finalising any agreement remain: amnesty for the M23 and reintegration of the M23 into the DRC army (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo [FARDC]) or civilian life. Council members stressed that there can be no compromise on fighting impunity and that no amnesty should be granted to M23 members who have committed serious crimes.
Council members will also be interested to hear whether the 15 October clashes between the M23 and the FARDC near Goma in North Kivu province of eastern DRC have negatively impacted the previous assessment that the Kampala talks would yield an imminent agreement. In response to the clashes, M23 leaders threatened to withdraw from the Kampala talks, while Rwanda said that reports of its support for the M23 were fabricated.
This reaction echoed messages received by Council members during their visiting mission where the DRC and Rwanda had divergent views regarding support for the M23 and commitments under the PSC Framework not to assist or provide support of any kind to armed groups in the DRC. Both Rwanda and Uganda denied providing such support and stressed that it was the responsibility of the DRC to deal with armed groups.
The most recent Secretary-General’s MONUSCO report notes progress in the DRC’s implementation of its commitments, but warns that renewed fighting dramatically increases the risk of a collapse of the political process. Council members will be keen to hear from Special Envoy Robinson about her plans to take the process forward, given the diametrically opposed views among the key signatories of the PSC Framework. Council members are expecting Robinson, who has just visited the region, to lay out her priorities for the coming year including how she plans to:
- support the Kampala talks;
- defuse tension and build trust between countries in the region;
- support the benchmarks adopted by the regional oversight mechanism of the PSC Framework on the margins of the General Assembly on 23 September;
- enable the reduction of the number and strength of active armed groups in the eastern DRC, including through DDR programmes;
- lead and coordinate international support for the PSC Framework, including by maximizing development and economic opportunities for the region; and
- support efforts to alleviate conditions faced by refugees and internally displaced people in the DRC.
Robinson is also likely to highlight how the resurgence in fighting and the lack of political will in the region to deliver on the PSC Framework commitments pose a significant challenge to her ability to be effective.
Regarding MONUSCO, Council members are likely to be interested in hearing Special Representative Kobler’s views on the efficacy of the intervention brigade and an update on the peacekeeping mission’s plans for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, expected to be deployed in November. While on mission, Council members heard that the joint operation between MONUSCO and the FARDC in late August was a success—effectively pushing the M23 out of Goma. Kobler will also likely stress that a successful conclusion to the Kampala talks with all major signatories of the PSC Framework keeping their commitment of non-interference is essential.
Kobler is also likely to reiterate warnings that the larger issue of the lack of state authority in the majority of North Kivu, exacerbated by a proliferation of armed groups—in particular the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU), and the M23—severely undermines security and that so long as the FDLR remains active, the M23 will not cease fighting. (Kobler is also likely to update the Council on MONUSCO’s allegations that the M23 has twice fired on UN helicopters this week, the most recent incident was today, 18 October.) The FDLR was one of the major issues raised when Council members met President Paul Kagame in Rwanda, where he expressed frustration that the intervention brigade was only focused on the M23 and suggested the peacekeeping force should be similarly engaging FDLR activities in the DRC. Council members have repeatedly underscored that MONUSCO’s mandate is to neutralise all armed groups.