Dispatches from the Field: Meetings in Kinshasa with the President, Government Officials, Political Parties, and Civil Society Organisations
Council members arrived yesterday evening (9 March) in Kinshasa for their visiting mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Upon arrival at the airport, the Council delegation interacted briefly with members of the press, and the mission’s co-leads—Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière (France) and Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon)—explained the visit’s goals. These include assessing the security situation in the DRC and the implementation of the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Council members began their work today (10 March) with meetings in Kinshasa with representatives from MONUSCO and the UN Country Team (UNCT), senior government officials, political parties, and civil society organisations. Members listened to perspectives on issues that included the insecurity in eastern DRC, the dire humanitarian and human rights situation, the ongoing regional initiatives to address the situation, the holding of peaceful, transparent, and credible elections, and the work of MONUSCO and the possible reconfiguration of its civilian, police, and military components.
Meeting with MONUSCO and the UNCT
Council members held a working breakfast with representatives from MONUSCO and the UNCT. Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita briefed Council members about the difficult operational environment in which MONUSCO works to implement its mandate in accordance with the most recent extension in resolution 2666 of 20 December 2022. Among other things, she described the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC, where fighting has continued despite the ceasefire which was to take effect on 7 March. Keita also explained how the security situation may complicate the government’s ability to carry out electoral processes in some conflict-affected provinces.
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia also briefed Council members on ongoing regional peace initiatives under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)—known as the Nairobi and Luanda processes, respectively—and the UN’s efforts to support these initiatives. He underscored the need to support the coordination and harmonisation of these processes and encourage the implementation of decisions adopted within their framework.
Meetings with Government Officials
Council members had an audience with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, and also held a separate meeting with Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and key members of his cabinet. Furthermore, they interacted with members of the Senate and the National Assembly–the upper and lower houses of the DRC Parliament—and the President of the National Assembly, Christophe Mboso N’kodia Pwanga. The senior Congolese government officials and parliamentarians emphasised that restoring peace and security in eastern DRC will be critical for holding elections in December. They accused Rwanda of stoking the conflict by continuing to support the M23 Movement and in this regard referred to the most recent report of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, dated 16 December 2022. Calling on Council members not to remain silent in the face of evidence provided by this report, the officials asked that sanctions be imposed on Rwanda.
The officials and parliamentarians expressed appreciation to MONUSCO for its logistical support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), but also described public frustration regarding the mission’s perceived inability to address deteriorating security conditions. They stressed the need to adjust MONUSCO’s mandate to make it fit for purpose, considering the current circumstances, and equip the mission with the necessary means to carry out its responsibilities effectively.
Meetings with Political Parties
Council members also met with Congolese political party representatives, including Martin Fayulu (Coordinator of the Lamukua party), Delly Sesanga (President of the Envol opposition party), and Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon, all of whom declared their candidacies for the presidential elections set to take place in December. The representatives described challenges and irregularities in the ongoing electoral process. They also questioned the legitimacy of the CENI and the Constitutional Court, noted the lack of public confidence in the electoral process, raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral law, the delay in voter registration, and the risk of violence, including attacks against opposition political parties. They also emphasised the need for national and international observers to monitor the elections.
Regarding the situation in eastern DRC, the representatives expressed support for the call to impose sanctions against Rwanda. One of the representatives called for the Security Council to enforce peace as it had in the 1960s, when it deployed the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC), while another underlined the need for a regional peace plan, with discussions based on the 2013 Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region (PSC Framework). This representative also emphasised the need to restore trust among various regional stakeholders and to harmonise the current regional peace initiatives.
Meeting with Civil Society Organisations
Council members met with representatives of Congolese civil society during a working lunch. The representatives spoke about the need to involve civil society in the discussions on MONUSCO’s transition. They expressed disappointment that resolution 2666 contains only one reference to civil society organisations, even though they were part of the transition plan’s development process. They also expressed discontent that their suggestion for a review of the government’s disarmament, demobilisation, community recovery and stabilisation programme (P-DDRCS) for ex-combatants had not been accepted.
The civil society representatives described the dire humanitarian situation in eastern DRC and its effects on women and children, asking Council members to address the situation and to urge Rwanda to cease its support for the M23. They also raised the issue of public mistrust of MONUSCO, and referred to the need to show the mission’s added value by strengthening its mandate. Regarding the upcoming elections, civil society representatives emphasised the need to promote the meaningful participation of women, and shared their concerns about the tense political atmosphere in the country and the lack of trust in public institutions and the Congolese government.
In their interactions, Council members conveyed a message of solidarity with the Congolese people and reaffirmed support for MONUSCO, which is working to implement its mandate in a difficult operational context. Regarding the situation in eastern DRC, they reiterated their demand for armed groups to cease all hostilities and engage in dialogue with the Congolese government; for all foreign armed groups to withdraw; and for an end to all external support to armed groups operating in eastern DRC. They expressed support for the ongoing regional initiatives, underlining the need to implement decisions adopted under the Nairobi and Luanda processes.
Council members encouraged all Congolese political stakeholders to continue working towards a peaceful, transparent, inclusive, and credible electoral process in December, in accordance with the DRC’s constitution and electoral law. They also stressed the need to ensure the full, equal, effective, and meaningful participation of women at all stages and to reaffirm the important role of youth in electoral processes.
Tomorrow (11 March), Council members will travel to Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, to assess the security and humanitarian situation on the ground. They are expected to meet with provincial authorities, representatives of women civil society groups in North Kivu, internally displaced persons, and regional actors present in the DRC.