Democratic Republic of the Congo: Vote on Resolution Renewing the Sanctions Regime*
Tomorrow (30 June), the Security Council will vote on a draft resolution renewing the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime, which expires on 1 July. The mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, which expires on 1 August, will also be renewed with the sanctions measures. On 17 June, France, the penholder on the DRC, shared a first draft of the resolution with all Council members, and on 21 June, it convened one round of negotiations. A revised text was then put under silence on 28 June but the three African members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) and China broke silence. Subsequently, the penholder made further revisions to the text and put it in blue this morning (29 June).
Since the adoption of resolution 1807 on 31 March 2008, the DRC government has been required to give advance notification to the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee of any shipment of arms and related material, or any provision of assistance, advice or training related to military activities in the DRC. This was apparently a contentious issue during the negotiations.
In his statement at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2021, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi requested the Security Council to remove this requirement to enable his government to ensure the safety and security of the Congolese people. The Permanent Representative of the DRC, Ambassador Georges Nzongola Ntalaja, reiterated this request at the Security Council meeting on the DRC today (29 June).
At today’s meeting, the African Council members, through a joint statement delivered by Ghanian Ambassador Harold Adlai Agyeman, supported the Congolese government’s request, arguing that “the current notification requirement remains an unnecessary bureaucratic impediment that infringes on the sovereignty of DRC”. They also maintained that “the requirement continues to impede the capacity of DRC to curb the activities of armed groups as well as improve its ability to safeguard its internal security”. The African members further noted that “armed groups continue to gain weapons, including heavy artillery enhancing the capability to contest the FARDC [the Congolese armed forces] as well as MONUSCO”.
Similarly, China argued that “the purpose of the Council’s sanctions on DRC is to combat violence caused by armed groups and not to limit the security capacity of the DRC government. With MONUSCO entering drawdown phase, it is getting increasingly urgent for the DRC government to safeguard security on its own”. China called on the Security Council to respond to the DRC’s concerns by waiving the notification requirement. The wish of China and the African members for such a waiver apparently led to the breaking of silence.
The penholder sought to accommodate the Congolese government (and the Council members supporting it) to some extent. The draft in blue says that “the notification requirements set out in paragraph 5 of resolution 1807 (2008) shall no longer apply to (a) supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, and related technical assistance or training, and (b) to shipments of arms and related material for the DRC”. However, the draft in blue does not exempt other items from the notification requirement. Listed in the annex of the draft resolution, these include man-portable air-defense system; anti-tank guided missile systems and other high calibre weapons.
In its Council statement today, China acknowledged the improvements to the revised text proposed by the penholder and expressed the hope that the Congolese government’s concern would be fully taken into account. It is not clear if the African members are satisfied with the text in blue.
It seems that African members had also proposed the inclusion of language regarding the security situation in eastern DRC and the ongoing regional efforts to address this challenge under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC). In this regard, the text in blue welcomes, in a preambular paragraph, the outcomes of the EAC mini-summits, which adopted a two-track approach—political and military—to respond to the security situation in eastern DRC, including the facilitation of political consultation between the Congolese government and armed groups and the deployment of a regional force if armed groups fail to disarm. The text also calls on all countries of the region to fully implement their commitments under the Peace and Security Framework for the DRC and the Region signed in Addis Ababa in February 2013.
*Post-script: On 30 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2641, renewing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime until 1 July 2023 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2023. Ten members voted in favour and five abstained (China, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, and Russia).