What's In Blue

Posted Mon 4 Oct 2021

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (5 October), the Security Council will convene for a briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita will brief. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) will brief in his capacity as chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. A civil society representative is also expected to brief the Council. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

Keita is expected to provide an overview of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the DRC, which was issued on 17 September (S/2021/807) and covers the period from 19 June to 17 September. Regarding preparations for the 2023 electoral process, the report notes the law promulgated by DRC President Félix Tshisekedi on 3 July reforming the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and the timeline issued subsequently by the National Assembly for the designation of the CENI members. However, it says that this process has been delayed because of lack of consensus within the Plateforme des confessions religieuses (Platform of religious denominations), which is supposed to propose a candidate for the CENI President to the National Assembly. The report maintains that the “holding of timely, inclusive and peaceful elections is a key element to sustainable peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

The security situation in the DRC is a likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Keita may describe the conditions in the north-eastern Ituri and North Kivu provinces, where a so-called “state of siege” has been in place since 6 May. (With the state of siege, civilian governance has been transferred to a military governor and a police vice-governor, and increased powers of search and arrest were given to police and military.) On 1 September, the DRC government extended the state of siege in these areas for the seventh time. The security situation in the north-eastern provinces remains dire, as armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continue to intensify their attacks against civilians despite the state of siege. During his 21 September speech at the UN General Assembly high-level segment, Tshisekedi said that the Congolese security forces have made some progress in addressing the threat posed by armed groups operating in those provinces, including by reopening important roads and facilitating the release of hostages. The Secretary-General underscored in his report the need for the authorities to carry out the state of siege policy in compliance with the “international human rights and humanitarian law obligations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” and emphasised the population’s right to a “fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable justice system”.

Tomorrow (5 October), the UN Human Rights Council is expected to discuss the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the DRC and the activities of the UN Joint Human Rights Office, which was issued on 15 July and covers the period between 1 June 2020 and 31 May. The report concludes that the human rights situation in the DRC during the reporting period “was severely compromised by the persistence of attacks by armed groups targeting the civilian population”, which resulted in many human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence.

In her briefing to the Council, Keita may describe her engagement with DRC stakeholders regarding the security situation in the north-eastern provinces and the implementation of the state of siege. She might also refer to progress in the cooperation between the DRC and its neighbours and note the ongoing regional efforts to combat the activities of armed forces, including through the operationalisation in May of the Contact and Coordination Group (CCG), which is composed of representatives of the intelligence and security services of countries bordering conflict-affected areas in the region. During its fourth meeting in Bujumbura in July—which was attended by Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania— the CCG decided to establish a Centre de coordination conjointe des opérations (Joint Operations Coordination Center) to address the threat posed by the ADF.

Another likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting is MONUSCO’s transition plan. The Council endorsed the joint strategy for the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO and the broader parameters for the mission’s transition in resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020. MONUSCO ceased its activities in the Kasai region on 30 June and is expected to withdraw from Tanganyika by mid-2022, in line with the joint strategy.

In resolution 2556, the Council asked the Secretary-General to submit a transition plan defining the practical modalities of the transfer of tasks to the DRC government, the UN Country Team and other stakeholders, including a set of detailed, measurable and realistic benchmarks with indicative timelines. Consequently, a joint working group on MONUSCO’s transition was formed on 5 July, consisting of representatives of the DRC government and MONUSCO. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the joint group developed 18 benchmarks, risks and mitigation measures and strategic partnerships that “form the basis of the transition plan”, by consulting with civil society and other partners. The Secretary-General submitted the transition plan as an annex to his report, and it is expected to inform the Council’s discussions on MONUSCO’s mandate renewal ahead of its 18 December expiry. Tshisekedi said that his government endorses the transition plan during his 21 September speech at the UN General Assembly high-level segment.

Ambassador Abarry is expected to present an oral report on the work of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. He may highlight, among other things, the committee’s 30 July informal consultations on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC, which focused on efforts to fight the persistent illicit trade in the DRC’s gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten (3T) sectors. The 1533 committee also convened for a joint informal consultation with the 2127 Central African Republic (CAR) Sanctions Committee on 13 July to engage with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten. It appears that, at that meeting, Patten noted important progress in promoting justice and accountability in the DRC, while expressing continued concern over the scale and severity of sexual violence in the country.

During tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to underscore the need to provide continued support to the DRC government’s programme of action for 2021-2023, which was endorsed by the National Assembly on 26 April. They may appeal to Congolese political stakeholders to resolve their differences through dialogue to create favourable conditions for the organisation of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in 2023. Furthermore, they may express concern over the persistence of intercommunal violence and human rights abuses. In this regard, they might underline the need to adhere to applicable international humanitarian and human rights law in the implementation of the state of siege in the north-eastern provinces. The fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources is another important issue that Council members may raise in the context of the need to address the root causes of conflict in DRC.

The Council appears to be generally united in its support for MONUSCO’s work and for the mission’s gradual drawdown. At tomorrow’s meeting, members may welcome the transition plan, which was developed jointly with the government and in consultations with civil society. Some members may emphasise the need to make progress in the transition plan’s implementation based on the agreed benchmarks and timelines, while others may advocate for a flexible approach which considers the evolving security situation and the gradual takeover of security responsibilities by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC).

Sign up for What's In Blue emails