What's In Blue

Posted Sun 24 Aug 2014

Press Statement on the DRC under Silence

A draft press statement on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region circulated by France on 21 August is under silence till tomorrow morning. It seems like some Council members were keen to have the Council show its support of regional efforts to address the neutralisation and disarmament of rebel groups, in particular the Hutu rebel group Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

The Council was last briefed on the situation in the DRC on 7 August, in a meeting chaired by Mark Simmonds, UK Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (S/PV.7237). The Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC and the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, and the outgoing Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson. Angola’s Minister of Defence, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, in his capacity as representative of the Chair of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), also addressed the Council.

Kobler told Council members that, despite greatly improved security and last year’s surrender of the March 23 rebel movement (M23), the protracted conflict in the DRC would persist if other remaining armed groups in the east failed to lay down their weapons too. He specifically singled out the FDLR, as some 1,500 of its combatants remain active and are not conforming to the DRC’s six-month voluntary disarmament plan. Kobler further expressed his support for the position of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the ICGLR countries to use force against those unwilling to disarm. Lourenço expressed his concerns over the slow progress of the voluntary surrender and disarmament of members of the FDLR.

The ICGLR held a mini-summit on 13-14 August on the DRC and the Great Lakes Region, at the end of which a communiqué was issued giving the FDLR an ultimatum for voluntary surrender by 2 December as set out by the joint ICGLR-SADC meeting of Ministers of Defence on 2 July. (The communiqué, however, contained a reservation made by Rwanda on making military action against the FDLR conditional on failure to disarm voluntarily). They also announced their intention to review the surrender process at the midpoint of the ultimatum period in October to measure progress and plan military action if necessary.

The draft press statement under consideration reaffirms Council members’ support for the swift neutralisation of the FDLR and takes note of the ultimatum and the review of progress for the voluntary surrender of the FDLR. It further expresses concern over reports from Kobler indicating that the FDLR has interpreted this timeline as a pretext to stall previously scheduled demobilisations. The draft also encourages the DRC government, in coordination with MONUSCO, to actively maintain military pressure against those leaders and members of the FDLR who do not engage in the demobilisation process or who continue to carry our human rights abuses.

The draft press statement also calls for the full and swift implementation by the DRC of its national commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, and in particular security sector reform. It notes the need to hasten the return of former M23 combatants eligible for reintegration to the DRC from Rwanda and Uganda in a timely manner.

It seems that most comments from Council members on the draft press statement did not indicate any serious substantive differences. However, language on MONUSCO’s mandate to neutralise armed groups and on ensuring accountability for the perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law was of concern to some members. Council members have disagreed in the past on the most appropriate way to describe the relations between MONUSCO’s mandate as a whole and the tasks of its intervention brigade. While some members emphasise that MONUSCO is one force with different components of its mandate, others—including the troop-contributing countries—stress that it is the intervention brigade in particular that is tasked with neutralising rebel groups. Members have also diverged in the past on the issue of MONUSCO’s role in ensuring accountability for crimes and whether this includes cooperation with international mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court or is limited to providing assistance to the DRC government and its judicial processes. It seems that previously agreed language was eventually used in order to get consensus on the draft press statement.

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