What's In Blue

Posted Tue 5 Nov 2013

Consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tomorrow (6 November), Council members are scheduled to hold consultations on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The meeting, which was requested by France, is likely to include briefings via video-teleconference by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson.

It is not clear if there will be a Council outcome to the meeting. At press time, France, the penholder on the DRC, had not circulated a draft product to the other members. Recent experience shows that any consensus on a Council statement is unlikely to be easy to reach, due to substantive disagreements between Rwanda and other Council members on this issue.

It appears that the meeting will provide an update on the military situation on the ground, and the impact that the apparent defeat of the March 23 (M23) rebel movement may have on the political negotiations in Kampala.

Fighting between the DRC army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), and the M23in North Kivu resumed on 25 October, following the suspension of the Ugandan-mediated Kampala peace talks between the DRC and the M23. During the fighting, the FARDC drove the rebels from their positions around Goma and other towns, forcing the M23 to withdraw into the hills near the border with Rwanda and Uganda. This also led to a call for a ceasefire by the M23 on 3 November to allow peace talks with the government. The DRC rejected the ceasefire offer on 4 November, stating that “what is expected is not a ceasefire. It is the end of all military activities by M23”. At press time, the FARDC continued its offensive on the remaining M23 strongholds, near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda, north of Goma.

Yesterday (4 November), Robinson, Kobler, Boubacar Diarra (AU Special Representative for the Great Lakes), Russell Feingold (US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC), and Koen Vervaeke (EU Senior Coordinator to the Great Lakes Region) called on the M23 to renounce its rebellion and for the DRC to restrain from further military action at this stage.

According to media reports today (5 November), the M23 released a statement that declared that it had ended its military operations and that it would “pursue by purely political means the search for solutions to the root causes which led to its creation.” The M23 statement added that “commanders are requested to prepare the troops for the process of disarmament, demobilization and social reintegration whose terms are to be agreed with the Congolese government.”

Council members were last briefed on the DRC in consultations on 28 October. At the time, Kobler told members that the MONUSCO intervention brigade was continuing its focus on protecting civilians and that it had not participated directly in the FARDC offensive, but rather had only provided technical support to the FARDC. Kobler also said that the FARDC offensive had been successful. He noted that while it seemed that the M23 had been defeated, the intervention brigade would prepare to carry out its protection mandate if and when the M23 resurfaced.

Later that day, Council members issued a press statement (SC/11163) on the M23 attacks on MONUSCO that condemned the killing of a MONUSCO peacekeeper and expressed condolences for civilian casualties in the DRC and Rwanda resulting from clashes between MONUSCO and the M23. The press statement, which had been circulated by France on 27 October, was the result of compromise, as Rwanda broke silence on the initial draft suggesting amendments. The amendment proposed by Rwanda condemning the shelling that resulted in civilian casualties was included in the final statement, while another amendment supporting the resumption of the Kampala talks was not included in the final text. Several Council members were of the opinion that the statement should retain its original focus and expressed disagreement with the additional elements proposed by Rwanda. However, during the 28 October consultations, Rwanda suggested that rejection of its amendments would send a message of indifference towards Rwandan casualties.

While several Council members were not eager to call for a ceasefire and halt the recent FARDC military successes, they will now be interested in learning more about the M23’s apparent decision to give up its military operations and the status of its capacity to resume fighting in the future. These issues are likely to come up in the consultations.

Another issue that may be discussed tomorrow is how to harness the military defeat of the M23 into political progress. In particular, there may be interest in what effect the current military situation will have on the Kampala talks, and how these talks can address the underlying causes of the conflict between the DRC and the M23.

Council members will also be interested in hearing how the M23 defeat may affect the future operations of the intervention brigade, which is mandated by resolution 2098 to neutralise and disarm all armed groups operating in the DRC, not just the M23, which has been its main focus so far.

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