What's In Blue

Posted Thu 8 Dec 2022

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (9 December), the Security Council will convene for a briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including the work of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the activities of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita will brief on MONUSCO and recent developments in the DRC. Dr. Peter Mathuki, the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), and a civil society representative are also expected to brief. Deputy Permanent Representative Lilly-Stella Ngyema Ndong (Gabon) is scheduled to provide an update of the work of the sanctions committee. DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula, as well as representatives of Burundi and Rwanda, are also expected to participate in the meeting under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Council.

Upon the request of France (the penholder on the DRC), the UK and the US, Keita briefed the Council in consultations on 21 November regarding the deteriorating security situation in the eastern DRC in light of recent military advances by the M23 Movement, an armed group that has historically operated in the eastern DRC and became active again this year. (For more information, see our 20 November What’s in Blue story.) In a 22 November press statement (SC/15115), Council members strongly condemned the resumption of attacks by the M23 Movement and demanded that the group immediately cease hostilities and withdraw from all occupied areas. They also reiterated their support for ongoing regional efforts to deescalate the situation and resolve it through dialogue.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Keita may highlight the Secretary-General’s latest report on the DRC, which was issued on 30 November and covers the period from 17 September to 30 November (S/2022/892). She is likely to focus on recent developments, including two important meetings in Luanda and Nairobi. The first was the mini-summit convened by the Chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Angolan President João Lourenço, in Luanda on 23 November as part of his regional mediation efforts, mandated by the AU Chairperson, and referred to as the Luanda process. The meeting was attended by the current Chair of the East African Community (EAC), Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta, and former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator for the Nairobi process. Since April, the EAC has carried out a two-track approach that includes facilitating inter-Congolese dialogue and deploying a regional force in eastern DRC to deal with armed groups who refuse to join the dialogue process.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the mini-summit, the leaders called on the M23 Movement to cease all hostilities starting on 25 November and withdraw from occupied territories. They also endorsed the outcome of the EAC chiefs of general staff meeting in Bujumbura on 8 November, which, among other things, recommended that the EAC authorise the use of force if the M23 Movement is not willing to take these steps.

Immediately after the mini-summit, the M23 reportedly said that it was not concerned about the outcome since it had not been part of the meeting. However, it reportedly changed tack in a 6 December statement, confirming its adherence to the ceasefire and indicating its willingness to start disengaging and withdraw from occupied territories. The M23 has also expressed support for ongoing regional efforts and requested a meeting with the EAC facilitator, the EAC regional force and the Ad-Hoc Verification mechanism, set up by the ICGLR as part of the Luanda process, to discuss implementation modalities. Furthermore, it reiterated its desire to engage in direct dialogue with the Congolese government to resolve the conflict.

The second meeting that Keita is likely to mention in her briefing tomorrow is the inter-Congolese dialogue between the government and various armed groups and civil society representatives in Nairobi from 28 November to 6 December under the auspices of the EAC. This followed two previous rounds of dialogue that took place in April and May. In a communiqué issued at the conclusion of the dialogue, the parties agreed, among other things, to release prisoners with no criminal records of atrocities or criminal convictions; to review the government’s Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS) for ex-combatants; and to hold follow-up meetings in Goma and Bunia, in eastern DRC, to discuss medium- and long-term issues to achieve lasting peace in the region.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to express their continued support for the ongoing regional efforts to address the situation in eastern DRC and defuse regional tensions. In this regard, they may welcome the outcome of the mini-summit in Luanda and the inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and call on all parties concerned to adhere to the decisions made in the context of these regional processes. Several Council members may continue to insist on the need for regional and bilateral forces deployed in eastern DRC to comply with obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Keita is likely to mention the discussion she held with DRC’s Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde on 16 November on the review of MONUSCO’s transition plan. The plan was developed in close consultation with the government and other relevant stakeholders and was endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2612 of 20 December 2021. Following the violent protests against MONUSCO in July, the Congolese government called for a review of the mission’s transition plan. In a 23 September interview with France 24, Tshisekedi expressed his expectation that the mission would leave after the 2023 elections. However, last year’s agreed transition plan provides a tentative timeline for withdrawal in 2024, outlining several benchmarks and indicators to be implemented before the mission gradually draws down and exits.

The Council is expected to renew MONUSCO’s mandate prior to its 20 December expiry, and the transition plan is likely to be a key issue in the negotiations. Regarding this plan, several Council members support the gradual, responsible and conditions-based drawdown of the mission. However, the three African members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) have supported the Congolese government’s request for a review of MONUSCO’s transition plan, arguing that the benchmarks should focus on strengthening key defence and security institutions to pave the way for the mission’s successful drawdown and exit. During the mandate renewal negotiations, Council members may try to identify some of the key benchmarks to facilitate this objective. In this regard, they may consider how MONUSCO can support the government in advancing security sector reform, accelerate the implementation of P-DDRCS and consolidate state authority. In light of the serious protection challenges in eastern DRC, the protection of civilians may continue to be a core priority for the mission. The Secretary-General has recommended that the Council renew the mission’s mandate for an additional year, maintaining its current authorised strength.

In terms of the domestic political situation in DRC, Council members are likely to be interested in the 2023 election. Keita may refer to the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) that elections will be held on 20 December 2023. However, opposition parties and civil society organisations reportedly complained about the lack of prior consultation. Keita may reaffirm MONUSCO’s support for the holding of peaceful and credible elections and continue to offer her good offices to facilitate inclusive consultations with all stakeholders to build trust and defuse political tensions.

Mathuki may speak about the EAC-led Nairobi process, including the inter-Congolese dialogue and the deployment of EAC regional forces in the eastern DRC.

The civil society representative may speak about the political situation in the country, including the insecurity in eastern DRC. They may also underscore the need to take into account the views and concerns of civil society in the MONUSCO mandate renewal process, particularly the protection challenge facing women and children. Deputy Permanent Representative Ngyema (Gabon) will brief the Council on the work of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, including the Chair’s recent visit to DRC and the Great Lakes region.

In tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may express serious concern about the dire humanitarian situation in eastern DRC and the displacement of massive numbers of people by the escalation in fighting. They may also strongly condemn the killing of innocent civilians in reprisal attacks in two localities in North Kivu. (According to a preliminary investigation by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) and MONUSCO, at least 131 civilians were killed on 29 and 30 November.)

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may also express alarm over the escalation of hate speech targeting the Kinyarwanda-speaking Banyamulenge people and refer to a 30 November press release by Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, which expressed deep alarm about indicators and triggers observed in the region that could lead to atrocity crimes. Some Council members may emphasise the need to enhance MONUSCO’s strategic communications capabilities to address challenges in relation to disinformation and misinformation against the mission and build trust with the host country and host communities.

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