Consultations on Clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Council members will meet in consultations at the request of France this afternoon (28 October) to discuss the on-going violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Special Representative Martin Kobler, is expected to brief by video-teleconference on the clashes, now into their fourth day, between the DRC army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), and the March 23 (M23) rebel group north of Goma in the eastern DRC. A draft press statement was circulated by France on Sunday night but Rwanda broke silence, suggesting some amendments. It is unclear if Council members will be able to reach agreement today.
The draft press statement circulated by France was tightly focused on condemning the M23 attacks against MONUSCO. However, this morning Rwanda submitted several amendments including a condemnation of the shelling on Rwanda and calling for a swift investigation by the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM). (This mechanism is a technical body to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues and it includes military experts from both the DRC and Rwanda.) It seems that Rwanda is also keen to stress that it is not just the M23 but also the other armed groups in the region—such as the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) —that need to cease all forms of violence and resume talks.
While some Council members may be open to a statement which addresses the wider concerns in the eastern DRC, it seems unlikely that agreement will be easily reached on amendments proposed by Rwanda. Council members are likely to be looking for more precise information from this afternoon’s briefing which could provide a basis for further discussion of a possible Council outcome.
Fighting resumed last Friday (25 October), following the suspension of the Ugandan-mediated Kampala peace talks between the DRC government and the M23. The talks broke down over the M23 demand for blanket amnesty for its fighters, as this was something the DRC was unwilling to give, particularly in relation to those responsible for egregious human rights violations such as child recruitment or sexual violence. Council members are familiar with this issue as amnesty for the M23 was identified as a major obstacle in the Kampala talks during the Council’s visiting mission to the region on 4-8 October. While in the DRC, Council members had 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 are following the violence in eastern DRC closely. They were briefed under “any other business” by peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous last Friday afternoon (25 October) on the resumption of fighting between the FARDC and the M23. Ladsous confirmed a mortar had landed in Rwandan territory, noting that the source of the shelling was unknown and that it had been referred to the EJVM for further investigation. Ladsous also clarified that the MONUSCO intervention brigade was staying focused on its protection of civilians mandate and that the current FARDC operation against the M23 was neither jointly planned nor executed with MONUSCO. It seems the intervention brigade will not actively engage alongside the FARDC in this round of fighting unless the threat to civilians grows.
On Sunday (27 October), the on-going clashes resulted in the death of one MONUSCO peacekeeper who came under M23 fire. The Secretary-General condemned the killing and pledged MONUSCO’s ongoing commitment to protect civilians. Kobler and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, jointly expressed their concern over the fighting and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint and return to talks.