Briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tomorrow (17 December), Council members will be briefed by video tele-conference in consultations on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by Special Representative Martin Kobler, head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet will also participate. At press time an outcome seemed unlikely.
Rwanda requested the meeting in light of the lack of progress in the voluntary disarmament process of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). This is also perhaps the last opportunity for Rwanda, which has a keen interest in the issue, to discuss the situation in the DRC before it rotates off the Council at the end of the year. Kobler is expected to update Council members on the current progress – or lack thereof – in the voluntary surrender of the FDLR thus far.
The timing of this briefing is also significant in the context of the 2 January 2015 deadline given to FDLR rebels by countries in the region to lay down their arms. Council members are likely to be interested in comments made by Ladsous yesterday about how only a few FDLR rebels have in fact laid down their arms. It seems increasingly clear that MONUSCO will have to take action to neutralise the FDLR come January in line with its mandate. (MONUSCO, through its intervention brigade, is authorised by resolution 2147 to neutralise armed groups.)
In addition, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries gave the FDLR an ultimatum for voluntary surrender by 2 January 2015. A follow-up meeting of the ICGLR and SADC, which took place in Luanda on 18-20 October, concluded that no progress in the voluntary surrender of the FDLR had been achieved thus far and that, consequently, military action will be needed if this does not change.
Council members will be looking to Kobler for an update on MONUSCO’s – and in particular the intervention brigade’s – preparations to assist the Congolese in tackling the FDLR militarily in a possible operation in January 2015.
Besides the FDLR issue, some members may want information on another rebel group, the Islamist Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is believed to be responsible for the death of over 260 people in a series of attacks near Beni, North Kivu, since early October. In comments to the press made yesterday in Dakar, Ladsous said that MONUSCO has been working to address the attacks of the ADF in North Kivu. Kobler may inform Council members of MONUSCO’s current operations to tackle the ADF issue alongside the Congolese military (a few months ago it had seemed that the ADF was depleted as a force but recent events suggest otherwise).
In a related development, in an open letter published on 6 December, the FDLR asserted its commitment to nonviolent political resistance and promised that more voluntary surrenders will occur on 15 December, on the condition that the ICGLR and SADC countries, MONUSCO and the DRC guarantee their safety. In addition, the FDLR claims that the conditions to which those who have already surrendered and their families have been exposed to in camp Kisingani are sub-standard and deplorable. More widely, the FDLR maintains that it represents 200,000 Rwandan refugees that have been denied their right to return to their homes in Rwanda. (During Rwanda’s tenure on the Council, it has repeatedly noted that members of the FDLR were among the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and that the FDLR is listed by the DRC Sanctions Committee.) Council members may want to hear more from Kobler about the conditions in the camps and if any progress has been noted with respect to further voluntary surrenders by the FDLR.
The Council has been engaged on this issue in recent months. On 5 November, the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2014/22) noting its deep concern over the lack of progress of the voluntary disarmament process of the FDLR and calling on the DRC, in coordination with MONUSCO, to undertake immediate military action against those in the FDLR who do not engage in the demobilisation process or who continue to carry out human rights abuses. This followed two press statements (SC/11533 of 26 August and SC/11586 of 3 October) in support of the swift neutralisation of the FDLR as a top priority in bringing stability to the DRC and the Great Lakes region.
In the 5 November presidential statement the Council also strongly condemned the recent attacks by the ADF, with most casualties being women and children. The Council also took note of DRC President Joseph Kabila’s promise to immediately engage further military action to neutralise the ADF permanently, with the support of MONUSCO.