Briefing on the Great Lakes Region
On Wednesday afternoon (12 April), the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, will brief the Council on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework Agreement (S/2017/208).
Djinnit was scheduled to brief in March during the meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). However some Council members felt that it would be better to have him brief the Council separately, as the March briefing and consultations were mostly devoted to MONUSCO’s mandate renewal.
The PSC Framework report covers various political, security and humanitarian developments in the Great Lakes Region and the activities of Djinnit in this regard. On Burundi, it notes that inter-Burundian dialogue, facilitated by the East African Community, has yet to produce a breakthrough. It adds that the political instability and insecurity generated significant displacement, resulting in nearly 387,000 refugees and some 170,000 internally displaced people.
In the DRC, Djinnit met with various stakeholders in an attempt to assist the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement between the government and the opposition on elections and transitional arrangements, facilitated by the Conférence nationale épiscopale du Congo (CENCO).
Under the agreement, President Joseph Kabila would stay in office until elections are held by the end of 2017. During this period, a “National Council for Overseeing the Electoral Agreement and Process” would be set up, and a new prime minister named from opposition ranks. However implementation of the agreement has stagnated, including over the selection of a new prime minister, and earlier this month CENCO announced that it will no longer facilitate implementation talks, blaming both sides for their lack of will to reach common ground. On 7 April, Kabila appointed Bruno Tshibala Nzenze as prime minister. The appointment of Nzenze, who recently resigned from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party after falling out with its leadership, has been met with criticism from the opposition ranks.
In addition to the political turmoil in the DRC, the report notes the continuing activities of armed groups in eastern DRC and their effect on the security and humanitarian situation. In particular, it notes with concern clashes between Congolese military and former March 23 (M23) elements in North Kivu, after the latter reportedly left the bases in Uganda where they had been awaiting repatriation since December 2013. The Secretary-General calls on the DRC’s neighbours to assist in preventing the former M23 from resuming its illegal activities, in accordance with their commitments in the PSC Framework agreement.
Council members will be interested to hear about Djinnit’s activities over the last few months in the context of the political turmoil in the region, particularly in the DRC. They may also be interested to hear more about the activities of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the PSC Framework and Djinnit’s efforts to reform its governance structure and reinvigorate its implementation.
In related developments, on 31 March 2017 the Council renewed the mandate of MONUSCO until 31 March 2018, lowering its authorised military troop ceiling to 16,215 personnel (S/RES/2348). In response to a request from the Secretary-General to increase the number of formed police units in light of the political situation, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to explore the possibility of inter-mission cooperation from other peacekeeping operations, and report back to the Council with any further recommendations as necessary for further approval. The resolution also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of MONUSCO by 30 September. The review is to provide options for a reduction of MONUSCO’s military and civilian components, to be made after the successful implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement culminating in the conduct of elections by the end of the year, and sustainable progress in reducing the threat of armed groups. After the implementation of the agreement, the Secretary-General is to advise the Council on a phased exit strategy for the mission as well.
Another area of interest for Council members may be the future role of the Special Envoy in the region. In a 4 October 2016 letter to the Council, the previous Secretary-General recommended the role of the Special Envoy be expanded beyond issues relating to the PSC Framework (S/2016/893). Further, the letter also recommended holding a separate annual Council meeting on the Great Lakes. In response, the Council said that it welcomed further discussions on the recommendations (S/2016/891). Several Council members felt that the proposals required further elaboration as to their financial and organisational ramifications, such as the overlap between the role of the Special Envoy and that of the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). Council members have not engaged on this issue since the end of 2016. The briefing on the Great Lakes may provide an opportunity for the Special Envoy to address the recommendations and revive discussion among Council Members on this matter.