Democratic Republic of the Congo: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (29 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita will brief. A civil society representative may also brief.
Keita is expected to provide an overview of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the DRC, which was issued on 22 June and covers the period from 17 March to 16 June (S/2022/503). Regarding the political situation in the country, the report notes the controversy surrounding the revision of the electoral law and the appointment of members of the constitutional court. The opposition did not participate in the National Assembly vote on the revisions to the electoral law, which took place on the night between 2 and 3 June, nor in the process leading up to the vote, citing the need to review the composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). In addition, some opposition and civil society members contested the renewal of three of the nine members of the constitutional court, calling it an illegal move aimed at tightening the presidential camp’s control over the court ahead of elections. Keita may describe MONUSCO’s good offices role in trying to ease these political tensions.
The deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC is expected to be a major focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report describes the difficult security challenges in the eastern provinces due to the increasing military activities of armed groups. One key challenge is the resurgence of the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23), a rebel group formerly active in the North Kivu province that has resumed its military activities in recent months. Although the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) claimed that they had forced the M23 to retreat, on 13 June, the armed group reportedly captured Bunagana, a key town in the North Kivu Province located near the border with Uganda.
The DRC government has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 and deploying its special forces inside Congolese territory. Subsequently, it decided on 16 June to suspend bilateral cooperation agreements with Rwanda. Kigali, for its part, has repeatedly denied the accusations against it and has blamed the Congolese government of working with the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnic Hutu armed group operating in eastern DRC which was implicated in the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. It has also accused MONUSCO of “colluding” with the FARDC and the FDLR.
Against this backdrop, there has been an increase in hostile rhetoric in the DRC. In a joint statement issued on 17 June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu noted “an escalation of hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence throughout the country—and specifically against Kinyarwanda speakers—as the DRC Government has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23”. The two UN officials also recognised the Congolese government’s public condemnation of this negative trend.
The Council held a briefing on 31 May to discuss the deteriorating security conditions in eastern DRC, at the request of the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya). (For more information, see our 30 May What’s in Blue story.) On 3 June, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on the DRC, in which it condemned the activities of all armed groups and called on them to “immediately cease all forms of violence, permanently disband and lay down their arms, and participate in the [Congolese government’s] Demobilisation, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Program (P-DDRCS)”. It also called on all foreign armed groups in the DRC to “disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin”. The Security Council also welcomed the two-track approach—which entails a political track to facilitate consultation between the Congolese government and armed groups, and a military track to deploy a regional force if armed groups fail to disarm—adopted by the East African Community (EAC) at a mini-summit hosted by Kenyan President and current chair of the EAC Uhuru Kenyatta on 21 April.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to seek more information about the progress in the implementation of the EAC decisions. Keita may refer to the political consultation that took place in Nairobi and in eastern DRC (in the cities of Bunia, Goma and Beni) in April and May, respectively, based on the two-track approach. According to the Secretary-General’s report, delegations from several armed groups, including the M23, as well as representatives of local communities, participated in the political consultation. Keita may also note the outcome of the third EAC mini-summit held in Nairobi on 20 June, during which participants received updates on the political consultation and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to accelerate progress on the political track. Regarding the military track, the summit was briefed on the work of the EAC chiefs of defence forces, who met in Goma and Nairobi on 6 and 19 June, respectively, to develop the Concept of Operations, Status of Forces Agreement and Rules of Engagement of the envisaged regional force to be deployed by the EAC. The summit adopted the relevant documents and called for their immediate implementation.
Keita may also speak about AU initiatives to address the situation in eastern DRC. In this regard, she might mention the role of Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, the current chair of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), who has been facilitating dialogue between the DRC and Rwanda at the request of the current AU Chairperson and President of the Republic of Senegal Macky Sall. Lourenço’s mediation efforts secured the release on 11 June of two Rwandan soldiers who were captured by the DRC in May. The DRC authorities alleged that the soldiers were apprehended inside Congolese territory and cited their presence in the DRC as evidence of Rwandan support for the M23.
Furthermore, Keita may describe MONUSCO’s joint efforts with the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes to de-escalate tensions. She may also note MONUSCO’s joint operations with the FARDC to respond to the increasing military activities of the M23 and other armed groups operating in the eastern provinces, in compliance with the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. Keita may also mention the mission’s tripartite cooperation with the FARDC and the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in areas where the three forces operate. The FARDC and the UPDF launched a joint military operation in November 2021, targeting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). In early June, the DRC and Uganda decided to extend the joint operation for another six months. It was initially planned to last six months (that is, until May 2022).
Keita is also likely to update Council members on the implementation of MONUSCO’s transition plan and the mission’s withdrawal from Tanganyika on 30 June based on its exit strategy. At a handover ceremony held on 21 June, Keita noted that the security situation in the province has improved significantly, except in two localities where MONUSCO needs to maintain its presence because of persistent insecurity.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to express serious concern about the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and its adverse effects on regional peace and security. Members may reiterate their condemnation of all armed groups and underscore the importance of mobilising the necessary resources to support the full and effective implementation of the P-DDRCS. Council members are supportive of the ongoing regional efforts under the auspices of the EAC; at tomorrow’s meeting, they might commend the support provided by MONUSCO and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes in this regard. Some Council members may urge the DRC and Rwanda to de-escalate tensions and avoid hostile rhetoric and incitement to violence. They may also call on the two countries to resolve their disputes through dialogue and express support for Lourenço’s facilitation role.
At the time of writing, Council members were negotiating a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts, which are due to expire on 1 July and on 1 August, respectively. The vote on the draft resolution is scheduled for 30 June.