What's In Blue

Posted Wed 3 Aug 2022

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Consultations

Tomorrow morning (4 August), Security Council members are expected to hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief, following his 28-29 July visit to Kinshasa, where he met with high-level Congolese officials and UN staff in the country.

The meeting, which was requested by India, takes place amidst heightened tensions in the DRC between the government and local populations, on the one hand, and UN actors in the country, on the other. Lacroix is expected to give an assessment of his visit to the country and the events that have transpired since then, including a fatal encounter at the DRC-Uganda border involving UN peacekeepers in late July, the Congolese government’s 1 August announcement that it would reassess the withdrawal plan of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and its recent decision to expel the MONUSCO spokesperson. A general focus of the meeting might be the UN’s efforts to improve strained relations and enhance cooperation with the Congolese authorities and people.

According to media reports, MONUSCO peacekeepers returning from leave were detained at the DRC-Uganda border on 31 July in Kasindi, North Kivu province. Following a verbal altercation with Congolese security personnel, they are alleged to have fired their weapons at the border post, reportedly killing two people.   Council members will likely want to hear from Lacroix any information that he may have about what precipitated the incident, as well as about the investigation that the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita is planning to launch. They may also want to learn about any interactions the UN has had with the country of origin of the peacekeepers, who are part of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade. In a statement released by his spokesman on 31 July, Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “outraged” by the incident, while stressing the need for accountability.

Members will likely be interested in the substance and tenor of Lacroix’s conversations with DRC officials during his visit to Kinshasa. They may want to know whether he had any discussions with government officials about whether they were considering speeding up the timeline for the mission’s withdrawal, which is currently anticipated by 2024. In this regard, members might want to know what implications a condensed timeline for withdrawal might entail for UN planning processes and for the future stability of the DRC.

The expulsion of the MONUSCO spokesperson is also likely to be a topic of discussion tomorrow. In a statement dated 28 July, the government said that the spokesperson’s presence is “not likely to promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO”, according to a Reuters article published earlier today. It appears that the DRC government believes that the spokesperson’s statements have contributed to negative sentiments toward the mission in the DRC.

In this regard, on 25-26 July, anti-UN protestors looted and damaged UN facilities across North Kivu province, apparently angered by the UN’s inability to curb violence by armed groups. Three UN peacekeepers (two from India and one from Morocco) were killed at Butemba, when protestors confiscated weapons from Congolese police and fired at them. More than 30 other people were killed during the protests across North Kivu, according to media reports. On 27 July, Council members issued a press statement in which they called for “calm and dialogue in order to resolve the current tensions” and encouraged “further efforts by the Congolese government to restore law and order”.

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