Democratic Republic of the Congo: Videoconference Briefing and Consultations*
On Tuesday (30 March), Security Council members are scheduled to hold an open videoconference (VTC), followed by a closed VTC, on the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita is expected to brief on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the country and on progress by MONUSCO towards implementing its mandate. The report covers the period from 2 December 2020 to 18 March. Keita was appointed to head MONUSCO on 15 January, succeeding Leila Zerrougui. Tomorrow she will brief the Council for the first time in her new capacity. A civil society representative is also expected to brief.
Council members may consider adopting a press statement after the meeting.
The meeting is taking place during a time of significant political change in the DRC, heightened concern about the security situation (especially in the eastern parts of the country) and persisting humanitarian difficulties.
In adopting resolution 2556 renewing MONUSCO’s mandate in December 2020, the Council called for the mission’s “planned withdrawals from the Kasai in 2021 and progressively from Tanganyika in 2022, as well as the gradual consolidation of MONUSCO’s footprint in the three provinces where active conflict persists”. Members may be interested in hearing about any planning currently underway or envisioned regarding these activities.
In the midst of these challenges, MONUSCO is continuing a transition leading to its eventual withdrawal. Keita is likely to provide an update on progress towards implementing the mission’s exit strategy, which includes the gradual hand-over of security responsibilities to the DRC government and of programmatic activities to the United Nations Country Team. The mandate of MONUSCO is due for renewal in December. Resolution 2556 of 2020, which most recently renewed the mission’s mandate, requested the Secretary-General to present options to Council members for a progressive and phased MONUSCO drawdown; the mission’s presence in the Kasaï region is scheduled for drawdown in June.
Members may also be interested in Keita’s views of the recent political instability in the country. In December 2020, the majority coalition close to former President Kabila, the Cap pour le Changement (CACH)-Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC), collapsed. On 27 January, several hundred members of parliament left FCC to join two opposition parties supporting Union Sacrée de la Nation (USN), a newly formed coalition around President Félix Tshisekedi. Several ministers resigned, as did Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba; President of Senate Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, since succeeded by Modeste Bahati Lukwebo; and Assembly Speaker Jeanine Mabunda, since succeeded by Christophe Mboso. The former director general of the DRC’s state mining company, Sama Lukonde Kyenge, has since been appointed the new prime minister. The reshuffle is said to have installed allies of President Tshisekedi in influential positions, curtailing the influence of Kabila. The National Assembly commenced its ordinary session on 15 March, convening for the first time with the participation of the USN. Tshisekedi announced that the new government is expected to consist of 30 percent women. At the time of writing, a new government was yet to be formed. As of 7 February, Tshisekedi assumed the Chairpersonship of the African Union for one year.
The difficult security situation in eastern DRC is another matter that will probably be raised in tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report notes a deterioration in the Provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, reporting attacks against civilians and the DRC security forces (Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC). On 22 February, the Italian ambassador to the DRC was among three killed in an attack on a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy north-east of Goma; an Italian embassy staff member and a WFP employee were also killed.
The security situation in Kasaï and Kasaï Central provinces is precarious, although there has been an improvement in South Kivu, Maniema and Tanganyika provinces, according to the Secretary-General’s report. Members may be interested in learning more about measures that have been initiated by MONUSCO to scale up its support to government security forces in several regions of the DRC to counter the spike in violence. These measures include increased joint patrols with Congolese police and military forces in Ituri, as well as the dispatch of combat deployments in the Rwenzori sector and at the border between North Kivu and Ituri.
The dire humanitarian situation will also be discussed in the meeting. Some 19.6 million persons are in need of humanitarian assistance in the DRC, according to figures provided by OCHA. There are several major drivers of humanitarian need in the DRC, including: violence, especially in the eastern regions; a high number of internally displaced persons (the Secretary-General’s report notes some 5.2 internally displaced persons across the country as the highest number in Africa and the second-highest worldwide); some 500,000 refugees who have fled into the DRC from the Central African Republic; the COVID-19 pandemic; and several confirmed Ebola cases.
In their interventions, Council members are likely to call for the swift formation of a new DRC government while welcoming the commitment of Tshisekedi to ensure 30 percent female representation. Given persistent armed group activity and human rights violations and abuses (including cases of conflict-related sexual violence), members may call upon the government to increase efforts in extending state authority, in fighting impunity and in holding perpetrators accountable. In this context, they may also call for increased national efforts to promote disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and encourage swift security sector reform. In addition, Council members are likely to discuss the gradual, conditions-based drawdown of MONUSCO and how to reduce the mission’s footprint in a manner that balances the need for troop reduction with stability on the ground.
*Post-script: On 31 March, the Council issued a press statement (SC/14483), where members of the Council expressed concern at the continuing intercommunal violence and at the increase of armed group activity in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as concern with the current humanitarian situation, marked by a significant increase in the number of people in need of protection and humanitarian assistance.