DRC Presidential Statement
Tomorrow (8 January), the Council is set to adopt a presidential statement on the demobilisation of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The FDLR is recognised by the Council as a Hutu group whose leaders and members were among the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had given the FDLR an ultimatum for voluntary surrender by 2 January 2015. An 18-20 October 2014 meeting of the ICGLR and SADC concluded that no progress in the voluntary surrender of the FDLR had been achieved and that, consequently, military action would be needed if this did not change.
On 2 January, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Said Djinnit, AU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Boubacar Diarra and US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC Russell Feingold noted in a joint press release that the FDLR had used the ultimatum period to commit more human rights abuses against civilians and to recruit combatants, and called on the DRC and MONUSCO to take all necessary measures to disarm the FDLR.
Special Representative Martin Kobler, the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), briefed the Council via video-teleconference under “any other business” on 5 January at the request of France. He updated Council members on the figures of FDLR members’ surrenders and confiscated weapons. (According to media reports, roughly 300 of an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 FDLR members have surrendered thus far). Kobler expressed his hope that the upcoming SADC-ICGLR summit on 15-16 January would produce an unequivocal statement that military action is inevitable and that the timeframe for voluntary surrender will not be extended further. He informed Council members that MONUSCO is ready to take action against the FDLR, as soon as the DRC government expresses its consent to commence operations. He also noted that military cooperation between the DRC and MONUSCO had been effective in seizing several rebel bases in an operation that commenced on 5 January in South Kivu against the Burundian rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL).
Meanwhile, DRC justice minister, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, said on 2 January on national television that the “military option had become inevitable”. However, despite effective cooperation between the DRC and MONUSCO in confronting the FNL, it seems President Joseph Kabila’s willingness—as well as the resolve of the three SADC countries comprising MONUSCO’s “Force Intervention Brigade” that is mandated to neutralise armed groups—to take military action against the FDLR remain in doubt.
In a telephone conversation with Kabila today (7 January), the Secretary-General called for decisive DRC action against the armed group and welcomed Kabila’s assurance that the DRC was ready to take action, with the available assistance of MONUSCO.
The draft presidential statement notes that the FDLR has not only failed to meet the deadline to demobilise, but that it has also continued to recruit new fighters. It stresses that the approximately 300 FDLR members that have surrendered, consisting of non-essential fighters, do not meet the condition of full demobilisation of the armed group as required. The draft further takes note of the DRC’s statement that military action is “inevitable” and reiterates the need for the DRC, together with MONUSCO (through its intervention brigade), to neutralise the FDLR by commencing military operations immediately. To that end, it calls on President Kabila to immediately approve such joint action. The draft statement further takes note of the planned SADC-ICGLR summit and points out that FDLR members can still choose to disarm voluntarily.
After comments by Council members, the draft statement was amended to emphasise the importance of addressing the root causes of the conflict in the DRC and identified the swift neutralisation of the FDLR as a “top priority” in bringing stability to the DRC and the region in the wider context of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC.
All Council members seem to agree that the FDLR has not been sincere in its supposed willingness to demobilise and that further negotiations are likely to be fruitless, as the FDLR will not change its position if not faced with credible military pressure. To that end, they hope that the presidential statement will reiterate the Council’s position and send a signal that the DRC and the sub-region should muster the political will to follow through on the ultimatum.
The Council has been following this issue closely in recent months. On 5 November 2014, 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 2014 and SC/11586 of 3 October 2014) in support of the swift neutralisation of the FDLR as a top priority in bringing stability to the DRC and the Great Lakes region. The message was further recalled in a press statement on 25 November 2014 (SC/11675).