What's In Blue

Posted Tue 6 Jul 2021

Briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tomorrow (7 July), the Security Council will convene for an in-person briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita, will brief on the Secretary-General’s latest MONUSCO report, which covers the period from 19 March to 18 June 2021. The Council will also be briefed by Ritha Kibambe, Deputy Department Head of the Laboratory of Medical Biology at the Ngaliema Clinic in the DRC.

The Secretary-General’s latest MONUSCO report, issued on 21 June, provides updates on the latest developments in the political, security and humanitarian situation in the DRC. The report notes some positive political developments in relation to the installation of the government of the “Union sacrée de la nation” and the adoption of its programme of action for 2021-2023. Accordingly, Keita may highlight the government’s pursuit of critical political and economic reforms as encouraging steps in addressing the country’s serious security challenges and strengthening institutions of governance. She may also indicate the ongoing discussions on the reform of the national electoral commission ahead of local and national elections in 2023 and underscore the need for the DRC political stakeholders to continue these discussions in an inclusive and consensual manner to consolidate the country’s democratic process. Furthermore, she may welcome the participation of women in the newly appointed cabinet. Women hold 15 ministerial posts in the new cabinet, which represent 27 percent of the total positions. As such, the government almost reached the 30 percent target articulated by President Félix Tshisekedi in his 6 December 2020 address to the nation.

At tomorrow’s meeting, speakers may express concern regarding the deteriorating security situation in the country’s eastern provinces, which led the government to declare a state of siege in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces. The state of siege came into effect on 6 May, and yesterday (5 July), the government announced its extension through 19 July. On 28 June, the authorities imposed a curfew in Beni in the North Kivu province after three separate bomb attacks in the city injured two civilians. According to media reports, a 1 July attack by an armed group in Beni left at least ten civilians dead. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which authorities suspect was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group.

According to the Secretary-General’s report, the eastern provinces have been plagued by increased armed group attacks and persistent human rights abuses and crimes, including conflict-related sexual violence. Keita may emphasise the need to address the root causes of violence and pledge the UN’s continued support to the government in confronting these security challenges. She may describe MONUSCO’s continued cooperation with the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and its support for the implementation of the government’s disarmament, demobilisation, community reintegration and stabilisation (DDCRS) programme.

Another likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting is the dire humanitarian situation in the country. The inter-communal violence in the eastern provinces—as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic impact—have left millions of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The 22 May volcanic eruption in Mount Nyiragongo in North Kivu province has compounded the existing difficult humanitarian conditions. At least 32 people were killed as a result of the volcanic eruption, and over 230,000 persons are internally displaced, many of whom sought shelter in surrounding areas, while thousands fled to neighbouring Rwanda. Keita may appeal for enhanced support to the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021, which remains severely underfunded, according to the Secretary-General’s report.

Council members may be interested to receive an update on the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO. In this regard, Keita might explain the continuous engagement of the mission with the government to develop a transition plan which the Secretary-General is expected to present to the Council in September in line with resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020. She may further note that a Joint Working Group comprised of the government and the UN has been established to define practical modalities and benchmarks for the transfer of tasks to the government, with the support of the UN Country Team, the humanitarian country team, civil society and other stakeholders. Keita may update Council members on the completion of the drawdown in the Kasai provinces and the transfer of tasks to the government in liaison with civil society as part of the winding down of operational activities ahead of the mission’s withdrawal from the provinces in line with the timeline set forth by resolution 2556. She may also provide updates on the planning process towards drawdown in Tanganyika, which is set to take place by mid-2022.

Council members are likely to welcome the formation of the new government and commend the steps taken towards enhancing female representation. Considering the continued inter-communal violence in the eastern provinces, members may urge the government to continue working towards addressing the root causes of violence. They may also call on the authorities to take tangible measures in fighting impunity and in holding perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable. Members may express their concern over the increasing number of attacks against UN personnel and underline the need to ensure the safety and security of peacekeepers. Some may also raise the issues of mining and illicit exploitation of resources.  Furthermore, Council members may call for the accelerated implementation of the DDCRS programme.

In relation to the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO, Council members may note the progress in the Kasai provinces. There is broader support for the gradual drawdown of the mission in accordance with the evolving situation on the ground, but differences could possibly emerge in terms of timelines and benchmarks when discussions start on the transition plan following the issuance of the Secretary-General’s transition plan in September and ahead of the renewal of MONUSCO’s mandate in December.