What's In Blue

Posted Mon 19 Dec 2022

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Vote on MONUSCO Mandate Renewal and the 1533 Sanctions Regime*

Tomorrow morning (20 December), the Security Council is expected to vote on two draft resolutions: one renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for one year, and another lifting the notification requirement under the 1533 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sanctions regime.

The negotiations on the extension of MONUSCO’s mandate were apparently difficult. France, the penholder on the DRC, circulated an initial draft of the resolution on 6 December and convened two rounds of negotiations, on 8 and 12 December. It seems that a major point of contention was the lifting of the notification requirement under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. The text was initially put under silence until Wednesday (14 December) morning but the UK and the US broke silence over the inclusion of the lifting of the notification requirement, apparently arguing that this is not a matter which should be addressed in a resolution on MONUSCO’s mandate. Several other Council members also subsequently submitted comments. The penholder then proposed a separate draft text to address the lifting of the notification requirement. Therefore, the Council is expected to vote on two draft resolutions tomorrow.

MONUSCO Mandate Renewal

On 14 December, after France decided to propose a separate resolution addressing the sanctions issue, it put a revised MONUSCO draft resolution under silence until Friday (15 December) midday. Albania, Ireland, Norway, and the US subsequently broke silence over a provision related to human rights monitoring. The penholder then made further revisions to the text in an attempt to achieve consensus and put the revised text under short silence until Friday afternoon. However, China and Russia broke silence (the third one) over the same issue. Therefore, the penholder made further revisions to the text and placed it in blue on Monday (19 December) afternoon.

This year’s MONUSCO mandate renewal negotiations took place against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and increased tensions in the region. There has also been growing anti-MONUSCO sentiment among local communities in eastern DRC. Following the violent protests against MONUSCO in July, the Congolese government called for a review of the mission’s transition plan, which 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.

The penholder sought to respond to these developments by restructuring the draft text to make it more focused and clearer to the host country as well as to troop- and police-contributing countries. The mandate is streamlined along three core priority tasks—the protection of civilians (PoC), support to the government’s Demobilisation, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Program (P-DDRCS) and its security sector reform (SSR).

The current MONUSCO mandate (resolution 2612 of 20 December 2021) also includes two priority tasks: one on the protection of civilians; and a second one on “[s]upport to stabilisation and the strengthening of State institutions in the DRC, and key governance and security reforms, in order to establish functional, professional, and accountable state institutions, including security and judicial institutions”.

The length of the text was also shortened, compared to previous MONUSCO resolutions, by condensing the thematic language, including on PoC. Similar to the most recent mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), a reference to “the responsibility to protect” (R2P) in the preambular paragraph of the draft resolution in blue has been replaced with a general reference to international crimes. (For more information, see our 13 November What’s in Blue story.)

During the negotiations, some members apparently opposed a reference to civil society. As a result, only one such reference was maintained in the draft text in blue. Some Council members also called for removing the human rights monitoring as a key element of one of its priority tasks, which MONUSCO has been performing for many years. In an apparent compromise, the penholder moved human rights monitoring to a section of the resolution describing the mission’s additional tasks in one of the revised drafts. But other members argued that human rights monitoring should be maintained as an aspect of one of MONUSCO’s priority tasks. France then removed the labels “priority” and “additional” tasks in a subsequent draft in an attempt to achieve consensus, but some members continued to insist that human rights should be listed under “additional” tasks. Therefore, the penholder made further revisions to reflect human rights as a cross-cutting issue, with the draft resolution in blue stressing “that all MONUSCO’s tasks should be implemented in a manner consistent with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The draft resolution in blue extends MONUSCO’s mandate for an additional year, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report on the DRC, dated 30 November. Although some members apparently wanted the mission to make progress towards transition with some troop reductions, Council members agreed to maintain the mission’s current authorised strength of 13,500 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 591 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units. It appears that agreement was reached to maintain the current force structure because of the deteriorating security situation in the eastern DRC.

The draft text in blue notes the Congolese government’s request for a review of MONUSCO’s transition plan and encourages the UN and the Congolese government, in consultation with civil society, to identify concrete and realistic steps that can be undertaken to create the minimum-security conditions to enable the mission’s responsible and sustainable exit. It requests the Secretary-General to submit to the Council, after the review is concluded and no later than July 2023, options for adapting MONUSCO’s configuration of its civilian, police and military components. This is supposed to include the UN’s future configuration in the DRC beyond the mission’s current mandate, taking into account the East African Community (EAC) regional force, as well as other existing international, regional and bilateral initiatives in support of the DRC.

Since April, the EAC has been pursuing a two-track approach known as the Nairobi process that includes facilitating inter-Congolese dialogue and deploying a regional force in eastern DRC to deal with armed groups that refuse to join the dialogue process. The draft text in blue commends the role of the EAC-led Nairobi process. It seems that some members were not comfortable with expressing unqualified support for the regional force in the absence of adequate information about its deployment. The draft text in blue therefore encourages support for the EAC regional force, as appropriate, underscoring the need for bilateral and regional forces operating in eastern DRC to protect civilians, to ensure coordination and information sharing with MONUSCO, and to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. It also commends the ongoing mediation efforts by the chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes region (ICGLR), which is referred to as the Luanda process, and underscores the need to ensure that the Nairobi and Luanda processes are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The draft text in blue also strongly condemns all external support to non-state armed actors, including the M23 Movement—an armed group which was dormant over the past decade but became active this year—and calls for an immediate end to such support. At the 9 December Council meeting on the situation in the DRC, the US reiterated its call for the cessation of all external support to armed groups, singling out Rwanda for its assistance to the M23 Movement. The DRC government has been accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23 Movement, but Rwanda has consistently denied it. For the first time, France also expressed concern over reports of Rwandan support to this armed group during that Council meeting.

The DRC is expected to hold presidential and legislative elections on 20 December 2023, as announced by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). The elections are likely to dominate the political discourse in the DRC over the coming year. During the negotiations, there was discussion on how MONUSCO can support the elections, but it seems that Council members were not certain about the Congolese government’s particular needs in this regard. Therefore, the draft text in blue uses general language on the issue, authorising the mission to provide support to the electoral process as appropriate and in coordination with Congolese authorities, the UN Country Team, and regional and international actors, without specifying particular tasks.

Sanctions Regime Resolution

For several years, MONUSCO resolutions have contained references to the 1533 DRC sanctions regime in the context of the mission’s support for the implementation of the arms embargo and its cooperation with the group of experts assisting the work of the sanctions committee. This year, discussions on this section of the resolution were particularly controversial because several Council members support the lifting of the notification requirement imposed by resolution 1807 of 31 March 2008, which requires the Congolese government 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.

When the Council adopted resolution 2641 of 30 June, which renewed the 1533 DRC sanctions regime for another year, the penholder made some modifications to the notification requirements, in order to address the Congolese government’s concerns. Despite this, five Council members (China, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, and Russia) abstained on the vote, and called for the total lifting of the notification requirement. (For more information, see our 29 June What’s in Blue story.) The issue resurfaced during the MONUSCO mandate renewal negotiations, with these Council members reiterating their position on the matter. The penholder therefore included language on lifting the notification requirement, but as noted above, some Council members were not comfortable with doing this in the MONUSCO draft resolution. They also expressed the view that the Council should wait until July 2023, when the 1533 DRC sanctions regime is set to be extended.

As a compromise, the penholder proposed a very short separate draft text stipulating the lifting of the advance notification requirement and put it under silence until Thursday (15 December) afternoon. But the UK broke silence, supported by the US, seeking to include language which requests the Congolese government to provide a report on its weapons and ammunition management. The penholder incorporated this request and put the draft text under another silence procedure until Friday (16 December) afternoon. The draft resolution passed silence and the text was subsequently placed in blue.


*Post-script: On 20 December, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2666, renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for one year, until 20 December 2023.

On the same day, the Council also unanimously adopted resolution 2667, lifting the advance notification requirement under resolution 1807 of 31 March 2008, which required the Congolese government to give advance notification to the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (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.

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