What's In Blue

UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Mandate Renewal

Today (29 March), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of MONUSCO, until 20 December 2019. The draft resolution was circulated by France, the penholder, on 18 March. Three meetings were held to negotiate the text along with bilateral discussions.

Council members came into the negotiations knowing that that the mission’s mandate would need to be modified following the elections in December 2018. Resolution 2409, which renewed MONUSCO’s mandate on 27 March 2018, tasked the mission to provide political support and technical assistance to the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement and the electoral process to ensure peaceful and credible elections. Given that the elections are essentially over (only the postponed vote in three provinces has been delayed and are scheduled for 31 March), this part of the mandate was no longer relevant. In this regard, implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement in order to hold credible elections is no longer part of the mandate. Instead the draft resolution includes, as a priority, support for the stabilisation and strengthening of state institutions in the DRC and key governance and security reforms. The protection of civilians remains the first priority task of the mission.

One of the areas of disagreement centred around the length of the mandate renewal. In the beginning, it seemed that South Africa, supported by some other members, was the largest proponent of a 12-month renewal, apparently as a way of prioritising regional stability. During the meeting on MONUSCO on 18 March, South Africa explicitly called for a 12-month renewal so that there was “adequate time” to review the situation in the DRC with all stakeholders. The call for a one-year renewal is consistent with the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his recent MONUSCO report. However, France and several other members preferred a shorter renewal to assess the formation and functioning of the new DRC government. The first draft of the resolution extended MONUSCO for seven months, until 31 October. A compromise of a nine-month renewal to 20 December was suggested, but it seems that South Africa still preferred the longer renewal. However, after the DRC sent a note verbale on 25 March indicating that they wished to see the mandate renewed for a period between nine and 12 months, members agreed to the nine-month renewal, and the draft was put under silence on 25 March.

On 26 March, the US broke silence on the paragraphs on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which were unchanged from last year’s mandate renewal resolution. It seems the US wanted the language to reflect that the DRC as a state party to the Rome Statute had consented to ICC jurisdiction. In the draft in blue, the ICC language has been slightly modified in line with the US request.

It seems that South Africa wanted additional language both on the new government of President Felix Tshisekedi, which came in following the 30 December elections, and a clearer distinction between the period before and after the elections on 30 December. As a result, the draft in blue, while continuing to emphasise the need for the DRC government to respect human rights, includes references to the Tshisekedi government’s efforts to respect human rights, and makes clear that language on accountability and violations of human rights and referral to the ICC applies to the period before the elections.

The draft resolution calls for an “independent strategic review” of the mission. It appears there was no opposition to its inclusion. The last strategic review of MONUSCO was in 2017. What is unclear in the text, though, is if the review will be independent, whereby the Council is likely to receive the full report, or follow recent Secretariat strategic reviews, in which case the Council is only likely to be given a summary. While the initial draft of the resolution called on the Secretary-General to provide the independent strategic review no later than 1 September, the final draft asks for the review no later than 20 October.

Another difference in this year’s draft is the elimination of several preambular and operative paragraphs on mission effectiveness. Compared to nine operative paragraphs on this topic in resolution 2409, this year’s draft resolution only has three such paragraphs. It appears that this reduction was done in the context of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which advocated for the streamlining of language for “clear, focused” mandates, as laid out in the Declaration of Shared Commitments which has been endorsed by 151-member states.

There were some other minor changes between resolution 2409 and the one put in blue by France on 28 March. Two preambular paragraphs were added recognising that the elections took place peacefully despite many challenges, using language from the 15 January press statement agreed by members following difficult negotiations.

The draft resolution also adds three paragraphs (two preambular and one operative) on Ebola and one operative paragraph on the events in Yumbi. The language on the Ebola situation reflects that the epidemic remains a destabilising factor. As of press time, since 1 August there have been 1,022 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola, including 639 deaths. An aggressive vaccination regime has led to the vaccination of approximately 87,000. In addition, there have been four attacks on Ebola facilities in March, illustrating the tensions between communities affected by Ebola and those trying to assist in the response.

The resolution reiterates condemnation of the violence witnessed in Eastern DRC and the Kasaï region, specifically in Yumbi territory on 16-18 December 2018. This echoes a 12 March press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announcing that a special investigative mission had concluded “that horrific intercommunal attacks carried out between 16 and 18 December 2018 at four locations were planned and executed with the support of customary chiefs and may amount to crimes against humanity.” The risk for further intercommunal violence was deemed as high, and the Office urged the DRC government to help ease tensions between the communities. Yumbi is one of the places where elections were delayed. The resolution further calls for investigations and ties it to language that welcomes continued cooperation on the investigations into the deaths of two UN experts in March 2017.

The Council met to discuss MONUSCO on 18 March, during which briefings were provided by Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui, and Anny Tenga Modi, Executive Director of Afia Mamaa, a civil society organisation. Zerrougui commended the involvement of the Council in the DRC during the past year, especially regarding elections. She said the situation today is far calmer than in December and January. She said that while the results of the vote were disputed, most Congolese citizens welcomed the inauguration of Tshisekedi. She further highlighted how Tshisekedi made supportive statements regarding peace, the rule of law, democracy, and the protection and promotion of human rights that were then followed up by tangible actions, such as the release of political prisoners. Modi discussed the lead up to the elections, particularly the detention of protestors, the elimination of space for political discussion, and overall electoral logistics. She called for the further engagement of women in the political and security processes.

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