Consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Committee
Tomorrow (28 October), Council members will be briefed in consultations by the chair of the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Dina Kawar (Jordan), on the Group of Experts’ (GoE) midterm report (S/2015/797). Kawar last briefed the Council on 14 July, following her visit to the country. Kawar will present the report, describe the activities of the Committee, and discuss its future plans, which include possible meetings with countries of the region, MONUSCO officials and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui.
One issue that is likely to be raised in the meeting is the GoE findings regarding continued activities of armed groups in the eastern DRC, despite operations conducted by the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC). Although operation Sukola 1 against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has entered its second year, with the assistance of the UN Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the ADF continues to operate in the area around Beni, North Kivu. In the period from October 2014 to June 2015, between 350 and 450 civilians were killed in the Beni area, with the ADF believed to be responsible for many of these attacks.
Another issue that may be addressed by Kawar is the GoE recommendation that an independent inquiry should be conducted into the inability of MONUSCO to protect civilians in Beni territory and measures to be taken to improve MONUSCO’s future ability to protect civilians there. This issue was a point of discussion on 14 October, when the GoE coordinator, Gaston Gramajo, presented the report to the Committee, highlighting its findings and recommendations. During the meeting, some Committee members expressed doubt that such a recommendation on the operations of MONUSCO falls within the mandate of the GoE. Other members thought the situation in Beni may warrant further consideration by the Council, while cautioning that a formal investigation could undermine MONUSCO’s operations in the DRC and prove counter-productive. (The GoE also recommended that the DRC should investigate why the FARDC operation against the ADF is failing.)
Council members have long been concerned about the need to neutralise the Forces démocratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), and what has been for several years a lacklustre effort by the FARDC to engage with the FDLR. With respect to these concerns, the GoE has reported that FARDC operations (carried out without MONUSCO) have forced the FDLR to retreat from some positions temporarily, but that the military capacity of the FDLR remains thus far intact. The report further states that certain elements in the FARDC have provided advanced warning of attacks to the (FDLR). This contrasts with claims made by the DRC government in an 8 October letter to the Council that it has considerably reduced the strength of the FDLR (S/2015/760). (Military collaboration between FARDC and MONUSCO was suspended following the appointment of two generals, both of whom MONUSCO had criticised as having poor human rights records).
Another major issue raised by the GoE, which may be highlighted in the briefing tomorrow, is the involvement of rebel groups and FARDC officers in the exploitation and trade of natural resources. As part of this illegal trade, mineral tracing tags are sold on the black market in Rwanda to enable the international export of illegal DRC minerals. The GoE, however, notes the positive cooperation received from Rwanda on this issue, but recommends that Rwanda investigate the illicit trade of mineral tags by Rwandan companies. The report then recommends that the DRC investigate and prosecute those in FARDC implicated in the illegal trade and taxation of natural resources and in child recruitment.
Several of the issues raised by the GoE correspond to concerns raised by the exiting head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, on 7 October, when he briefed the Council for the last time before leaving his post (S/PV.7529). Reflecting on his two year tenure as head of the mission, Kobler noted improvement in the security situation in some areas in the east and in the performance of the FARDC, but said that the population in many areas still relies on the critical presence of MONUSCO for security. He noted that the March 23 Movement (M23) combatants, militarily defeated in 2013, still await repatriation from Rwanda and Uganda; that the ADF continue to attack civilians in Beni Territory in North Kivu; and that the 1,100 strong Hutu Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group continues to terrorise civilians. He called on Kabila to resume cooperation with MONUSCO in order to carry out joint operations against the FDLR.