Adoption of Resolution Renewing the UN Mission in the DRC
Tomorrow (26 March), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution to renew the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and its intervention brigade. The draft resolution was put in blue today.
Council members’ experts met on 17 and 20 March to negotiate the draft resolution which extends the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2016. The draft resolution endorses the recommendations made in the report of the Secretary-General on the strategic review of MONUSCO (S/2014/957). It also addresses recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and takes into account the observations made by the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, and the views expressed by DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda, during the Council briefing on 19 March (S/PV.7410) as well as Kobler’s comments in the consultations that followed.
Council members would have found inputs from Kobler and Tshibanda’s briefing useful in confirming their views on whether or not to follow the Secretary-General’s recommendation from the strategic review to reduce MONUSCO’s troops by 2,000 (according to the review this is the number of troops that can be withdrawn without affecting the security situation). With respect to security, Kobler noted improvements during the briefing but stressed that more must be done to reduce the threat from armed groups and violence against civilians before MONUSCO can end its operations in particular areas. He also noted that any reduction of MONUSCO’s strength should be gradual, progressive and tied to specific goals developed jointly with the DRC. Tshibanda summarised the progress achieved in the DRC, stating that most parts of the country are secure, government institutions are functioning and security sector reform is underway. Therefore, he said, the time has come for the DRC to shoulder the security responsibilities,reflecting the DRC’s position that a significant withdrawal of MONUSCO is warranted. Tshibanda noted that the DRC is ready to launch a strategic dialogue with the UN on all of these issues. During consultations, Kobler questioned the DRC’s readiness to shoulder more responsibility as well as how much progress had been achieved.
The draft resolution fully endorses the conclusions of the strategic review and, accordingly, recommends the reduction of MONUSCO by 2,000 troops, while noting that this reduction will become permanent once significant progress in the DRC is achieved, including in fighting the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR). It further encourages the DRC to enter into a strategic dialogue with MONUSCO to develop a road map for an exit strategy. Determinations of further reconfigurations of MONUSCO, it is emphasised, should be based on progress on the ground and made in consultations with the government. The draft further requests MONUSCO to maximise its interoperability, flexibility and effectiveness in the implementation of its mandate. (The review contained criticism regarding the poor performance of some of MONUSCO’s contingents, recommended a more proactive approach and called for all contingents’ to show willingness to use force to protect civilians).
Getting agreement on how to refer to the neutralisation of armed groups by the intervention brigade has been difficult in previous negotiations. In order to avoid this contentious issue, the draft text uses the same language from resolution 2147 which renewed the mandates of MONUSCO and the intervention brigade in March 2014.
Related to the intervention brigade, during negotiations New Zealand suggested including a request to receive informal briefings on the work of the intervention brigade in neutralising armed groups. Several Council members agreed that due to the uniqueness of the brigade’s mandate, a more hands-on approach and close monitoring by the Council is warranted. However, others thought that including such a request in the resolution would result in a rigid schedule of formal briefings and meetings which would overburden the Secretariat and be of limited use. As a compromise, updates on the brigade have been added to the three month reporting cycle. In addition, Council members and troop-contributing countries will receive informal monthly updates at the expert level from the Secretariat on the intervention brigade.
The draft resolution takes note of the launching of initial operations against the FDLR by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) while noting with “deep concern” reports of cooperation between the FARDC and the FDLR, and strongly encourages DRC cooperation with MONUSCO in the anti-FDLR efforts. On this issue, Kobler noted in his briefing that MONUSCO was ready to assist the FARDC, but had to suspend support for the anti-FDLR operation because the officers placed in charge of the operation had formerly commanded units with a credible history of human rights violations. This is in line with the UN’s human rights due-diligence policy (HRDDP). Kobler directly addressed Tshibanda in an appeal to restore cooperation between MONUSCO and the government on this issue and more generally. In response, Tshibanda said that cooperation existed on various issues and elaborated on successful ongoing unilateral operations by the FARDC against the FDLR. He also said that there is no concrete evidence implicating the officers in question in human rights abuses It seems that in Kobler questioned the successes of the FARDC operation against FDLR, noting that it seems that the two forces are collaborating. Apparently the FDLR has been given advance warning of some operations allowing its fighters to clear out of an area and for the FARDC to claim that they had cleared the area although there was no real engagement with the rebels.
On the issue of elections, scheduled for November 2016, the draft resolution calls on the DRC to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process, in accordance with the constitution. It also urges the government to ensure the freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly, equitable access to media including state media and the safety and freedom of movement for all candidates and others. The need to abide by the existing constitutional framework is stressed throughout the resolution.
Council members would have had in mind Kobler’s and Tshibanda’s comments on the holding of elections and recent events in the DRC. Kobler stressed the importance of the elections being free, fair, peaceful and timely and expressed concerns over limitations on freedom of movement, freedom of expression of all candidates, human rights defenders and others and their access to media. (Violent clashes on 19 January over a proposed electoral law between protesters and government forces left 14 reportedly dead.. President Joseph Kabila has been suspected of attempting to use this law, which was eventually amended, and other ways to bypass the constitutional limits of two presidential terms.) Tshibanda insisted that his country is committed to the conduct of free and fair elections.
One controversial aspect of the negotiations was over a preambular paragraph concerning the proper preparation, equipment and political support for all MONUSCO contingents, including the contingents of the intervention brigade. Several countries, including two permanent members, rejected the notion of political support which they understood to mean the support of the home governments of all the various contingents of MONUSCO. Others understood this to mean support from regional and international actors as contingents should only answer to the force commander. As a result, the draft text refers only to the intervention brigade being “supported” rather than “politically supported”.