What's In Blue

Posted Sat 4 Dec 2021

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (6 December), the Security Council will convene for a briefing on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the DRC sanctions regime. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita and the chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Abdou Abarry of Niger, will brief. 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 1 December (S/2021/987) and covers the period from 18 September to 30 November. In describing the planning for the 2023 elections, the report notes the controversy over the appointment of 12 members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), including the president, by the National Assembly on 16 October. In particular, the Catholic and Protestant churches objected to the appointment of Denis Kadima—a former executive director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), based in South Africa—as president of CENI because of his alleged affiliation with President Félix Tshisekedi. The Catholic and Protestant churches formed a coalition with other actors to call for credible, free, transparent, inclusive, and peaceful elections in 2023. In this regard, Keita may explain MONUSCO’s engagement with key political and civil society actors, as part of its good offices mandate, to encourage inclusive and peaceful political processes.

The security situation in the eastern part of DRC continues to be a matter of concern. The Secretary-General’s report describes the difficult security challenges in Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema Provinces, but it also notes that the situation in Tanganyika continues to show improvement despite the activities of some armed groups.

The recent suicide bombings in Kampala, which were allegedly carried out by groups affiliated with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), will likely draw the Council’s attention. These groups operate in the eastern part of the DRC and have possible links to the Islamic State (Da’esh). On 30 November, the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) issued a press release announcing a joint operation with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) targeting the ADF.

The government’s “state of siege” in the eastern provinces was extended for the twelfth time in November, with lawmakers from North Kivu and Ituri provinces opposing its continued extension. (Through the state of siege, civilian governance is transferred to a military governor and a police vice-governor in North Kivu and Ituri, and increased powers of search and arrest are given to police and military.) On 29 September, the National Assembly adopted an assessment report which identified allegations of embezzlement of funds for military operations and recommended the development of an exit strategy for the state of siege.

The increasing insecurity in the eastern provinces has exacerbated the humanitarian and human rights situation. The Secretary-General’s report mentions that 5.7 million Congolese are displaced by the increased violence in the eastern provinces. This was further compounded by the COVID pandemic and the outbreak of a new Ebola virus in North Kivu.  In the midst of these difficulties, OCHA’s 2021 DRC response plan remains underfunded.

The report further notes the 1,024 human rights violations and abuses documented by MONUSCO between September and October. Keita may describe MONUSCO’s efforts to enhance its robust presence in the eastern provinces and increase its joint operations with the Congolese armed forces to respond to security threats and enhance the protection of civilians, working in compliance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. Furthermore, Keita may highlight MONUSCO’s efforts to support the operationalisation of the government’s disarmament, demobilisation, recovery, community, and stabilisation programme.

In light of the upcoming negotiation on the mission’s mandate, which expires on 20 December, Keita may explain the joint efforts with the UN Country Team and the Congolese government to implement its transition plan submitted to the Council in September in line with resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020. The Secretary-General’s report recommended the extension of MONUSCO’s mandate for another year, maintaining its current strategic priorities and authorised troop and police strength.

Ambassador Abarry is expected to speak about his recent visit to DRC as chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee and his discussions with the Congolese authorities on the implementation of the sanctions regime. The Congolese government requested the Council to lift the measures imposed in paragraph 5 of resolution 1807 (2008) on advance notification to the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. These measures include any shipment of arms and related material for the DRC, or any provision of assistance, advice or training related to the military activities of the FARDC. The current mandate of the DRC sanctions regime expires on 1 July 2022, as per resolution 2582.

During Monday’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— endorsed by the National Assembly on 26 April—which is deemed critical for the implementation of MONUSCO’s transition plan. The programme of action envisages the implementation of several reforms, including security sector, justice and administrative reforms as well constitutional reforms. They may also 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, Council members might underline the need to adhere to applicable international humanitarian and human rights law in the implementation of the state of siege in the eastern provinces.

The Council appears to be generally united in support of MONUSCO’s work and for the mission’s gradual drawdown. However, some members may emphasise the need to make progress in the implementation of the mission’s transition plan 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). In the face of a deteriorating security situation in the eastern provinces and its adverse effects on the civilian population, Council members may underscore the significance of MONUSCO’s mandate on the protection of civilians. The performance, conduct and discipline of MONUCSO peacekeepers might also be raised during the upcoming negotiations. Some members may express serious concerns over several new cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the mission and stress the need to ensure accountability, while others may attach importance to the safety and security of peacekeepers.

The Congolese government has been clear that the state of siege will be maintained until the insecurity in the eastern provinces is adequately addressed. Some Council members have, however, expressed concern over its effects on access to justice, pre-trial detention, and prison overcrowding. These members may stress the need for accountability and justice.