Democratic Republic of Congo: Vote on MONUSCO Mandate Renewal*
Tomorrow (20 December), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for one year, until 20 December 2022.
France, the penholder on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), circulated the zero draft of the resolution on 6 December, following the Council’s briefing and consultations on MONUSCO earlier that day. The briefing focused on the Secretary-General’s 1 December report on the DRC, which recommended the extension of MONUSCO’s mandate for another year, maintaining its current strategic priorities and authorised troop and police strength.
France convened two rounds of negotiations, on 8 December and on 13 December. It put a draft text under silence on Wednesday (15 December). Russia subsequently broke silence and the US made comments. After a further revision, a draft resolution was placed under silence until Friday (17 December). That draft then passed silence and was put in blue.
The draft text in blue extends MONUSCO’s mandate, as most recently outlined in resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020, for a period of one year. It contains only a small reduction of the mission’s authorised troop ceiling, from 14,000 to 13,500—a number that corresponds to the current troop presence. The draft text in blue encourages the UN Secretariat to consider a further reduction of MONUSCO’s level of deployment and area of operations “based on the positive evolution of the situation on the ground”, in line with the joint strategy on the progressive and phased drawdown of MONUSCO submitted to the Council on 26 October 2020. Several Council members expressed support for this approach at the 6 December Council meeting on the DRC.
The draft text in blue also welcomes the mission’s transition plan, which was submitted to the Council in September as requested in resolution 2556. A Joint Working Group comprised of the UN and the Congolese government has been established to follow up on the implementation of the transition plan and monitor progress towards achieving its benchmarks and indicators. The draft text in blue encourages the Joint Working Group to carry out its work in close cooperation with civil society. It further encourages MONUSCO and the UN Country Team to operationalise the humanitarian-development-peace “triple nexus” approach—which aims to foster greater cooperation and coordination among national and international stakeholders engaged in development, humanitarian action and peacebuilding activities— in the Tanganyika province and the Kasai region. MONUSCO withdrew from Kasai in June, and the draft resolution requests the mission to withdraw from Tanganyika by mid-2022 and consolidate its footprint in three provinces where active conflict persists: Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.
It seems that there was some discussion during the negotiations about how to address the transfer of tasks from MONUSCO to the DRC government and the UN Country Team. During the 6 December Council meeting, the UK emphasised the need for the early transfer of tasks “that are not central to meeting the minimum conditions for withdrawal and those for which the Government, the UN Country Team and other international partners could already reasonably assume responsibility”. The UK apparently raised this issue during the negotiations, as well. As it seems that some members wished to make sure that these tasks not be transferred too early, the draft text in blue emphasises the need “to progressively transfer MONUSCO’s tasks to the Government of the DRC, the UNCT and other relevant stakeholders, where appropriate and consistent with mandates and resources” and requests the Secretary-General to provide the Council updates in this regard.
The draft text in blue condemns the renewed attacks by armed opposition groups in eastern DRC, particularly the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and expresses concern regarding reported links between some of these armed groups and terrorist networks in eastern DRC. It also highlights the importance of the protection of civilians, particularly given the precarious security situation in the eastern provinces, and maintains this as one of the two strategic priorities of the mission. Accordingly, the mission through its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) is expected to undertake stabilisation activities unilaterally or jointly with the Congolese security forces and address asymmetrical threats through a mobile, flexible and robust posture.
There was also some discussion regarding the government’s “state of siege” in the eastern provinces. (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.) The state of siege was extended for the twelfth time in November, with some lawmakers from North Kivu and Ituri provinces opposing its continued extension. The draft text in blue calls on the Congolese government “to ensure that the state of siege in Ituri and North Kivu is assessed on a regular basis, responsive to progress in achieving its clearly defined objectives and implemented with full respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.
The issue of transitional justice was also raised during the negotiations. Some Council members sought to underscore the need for accountability to fight impunity. As such, the draft text in blue “welcomes the steps initiated by the Government of the DRC towards the establishment of a national transitional justice strategy to promote truth and reconciliation while ensuring accountability for past crimes, reparation for victims and safeguards against the reoccurrence of past human rights violations”. There was also some discussion on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence, and proposals made to strengthen the existing language have been incorporated in the draft resolution in blue.
The other priority of the mission remains supporting the stabilisation and strengthening of DRC state institutions. In this regard, the text in blue instructs MONUSCO to support the implementation of the government’s disarmament, demobilization, community reintegration and stabilisation programme (PDDRC-S), particularly in North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces and in close cooperation with the UN Country Team and international partners. At the 6 December meeting, Council members welcomed the programme’s launch and called for its full operationalisation to facilitate the sustainable demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants. They also stressed the need to find non-military solutions to the security challenge in eastern DRC. Therefore, the draft resolution in blue welcomes the establishment of a Contact and Coordination Group to oversee the technical implementation of non-military measures to deal with armed opposition groups operating in the DRC and the region. There is also broader understanding among Council members on the need for a regional approach to the security challenges in eastern DRC. As such, the draft text “welcomes the UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes region as well as its Action Plan, encourages ownership and political will by the signatory states of the PSC Framework for their effective implementation”.
Regarding the political situation in the DRC, Council members have focused their attention on the implementation of the governance, security and economic reforms contained in the DRC government’s programme of action 2021-2023 and the preparations for the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. The draft resolution in blue calls on all Congolese stakeholders to work towards peaceful, transparent, inclusive and credible electoral processes and spare no effort in implementing the programme of action’s reforms.
*Post-script: On 20 December, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2612, renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for one year, until 20 December 2022.