What's In Blue

Posted Sat 11 Mar 2023

Dispatches from the Field: Visit to Goma

This morning (11 March), Council members left Kinshasa for Goma, the capital of North Kivu, the most conflict-affected province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They held meetings with provincial authorities, regional actors based in Goma, and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) force stationed in the area.

In these meetings, Council members sought to gain a better understanding of the security and humanitarian situation in North Kivu, the activities of armed groups and the various human rights abuses and violations committed in the province, and the effects of the illegal exploitation of natural resources in exacerbating conflict and violence. They also sought more information on measures that need to be taken to tackle these challenges, on the level of cooperation and coordination among the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), MONUSCO, and regional forces, as well as on the operational difficulties facing MONUSCO and possible avenues to support the mission.

Meeting with the Military Governor of North Kivu

Council members met with the Military Governor of North Kivu, Lieutenant General Constant Ndima Kongba, who provided a detailed briefing on the security situation in the province and the activities of various armed groups. He expressed concerns about Goma’s encirclement by the M23 Movement and the group’s control of the main supply routes. Ndima also described the dire humanitarian situation in North Kivu, where approximately 2.3 million people have been displaced.

Ndima asked Council members to condemn Rwanda for its support of the M23 and to push for the implementation of the decisions adopted within the framework of the ongoing regional initiatives under the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), known as the Nairobi and Luanda processes, respectively. He also described the cooperation between the FARDC and MONUSCO, which includes the exchange of information, medical and casualty evacuation (MEDIVAC and CASEVAC), and the joint securing of major highways. However, Ndima pointed to a rise in public mistrust of MONUSCO due to the resurgence of M23, which was on display during mass protests in July 2022, and emphasised the need to strengthen the mission’s mandate to enforce peace.

Ndima described the illegal exploitation of natural resources as a factor fuelling conflict in eastern DRC. He noted that North Kivu is endowed with strategic minerals that have attracted the involvement of multinational companies and neighbouring countries to exploit these resources, which in turn has complicated the security situation. Ndima referred to the need to implement the Protocol Against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources, adopted in November 2006 within the framework of the ICGLR, particularly by taking measures to identify and trace minerals illegally exploited from the DRC.

Tribute to MONUSCO Peacekeepers

While in Goma, Council members paid tribute to MONUSCO peacekeepers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita, who delivered remarks at the event, noted that 2022 was the second deadliest year for MONUSCO after 2017. According to UN figures, in 2022, there were 26 fatalities, including of military, police, and civilian personnel, whereas 34 deaths were documented in 2017. Since the mission’s establishment in 1999, a total of 257 MONUSCO peacekeepers have been killed in the line of duty. Council members observed a minute of silence, and the mission’s co-leads—Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière (France) and Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon)—laid a wreath to honour the fallen MONUSCO peacekeepers.

Meeting with Key Regional Actors of the Nairobi and Luanda Processes

Council members received a briefing from Lieutenant General Nassone João (Angola), the Head of the Ad-Hoc Verification Mechanism established in July 2022 under the Luanda process. João spoke about the mechanism’s work and its cooperation with the FARDC, MONUSCO, and other regional verification mechanisms. He noted that fighting has continued despite the ceasefire which was to take effect on 7 March under the facilitation of Angolan President and Chair of the ICGLR João Lourenço. Angola is reportedly planning to send troops to the DRC to secure areas where the M23 is supposed to be stationed after the ceasefire and to protect members of the Ad-Hoc Verification Mechanism.

The commander of the EAC regional force, Major General Jeff Nyagah (Kenya), briefed Council members on the progress in the deployment of the EAC regional force and the operationalisation of the force’s headquarters in Goma. He also informed Council members that South Sudan and Uganda are expected soon to deploy forces taking part in the EAC regional force. The efforts of the EAC regional force needed reinforcement through the political track, and work was needed towards ensuring greater synergy between the Nairobi and Luanda processes, Nyagah said, expressing the force’s desire to establish close coordination with MONUSCO. In this regard, a legal framework would be needed.

Nyagah mentioned the establishment of a joint bureau comprising the various regional verification mechanisms under the leadership of EAC Chair and President of Burundi Évariste Ndayishimiye. The joint bureau had conducted a visit on 9 March to certain localities in North Kivu to assess the security situation and verify ceasefire violations. Nyagah underlined the need to adhere to the decisions adopted by regional heads of state and government, adding that actions should be taken to ensure compliance if local actors fail to do so.

Council members also heard from the Congolese High Representative for the Nairobi and Luanda processes, Professor Serge Tshibangu, who shared his country’s perspective on the ongoing regional initiatives to address the security situation in eastern DRC.

Thematic Discussion on Natural Resources

One of the objectives of the Council’s visit to the DRC is to discuss how the illicit exploitation and trafficking of natural resources can be addressed and what actions can be taken against individuals and organisations engaged in these illegal activities. During a working dinner on this thematic issue, Council members were briefed by experts on conflict dynamics and natural resources in eastern DRC, where various armed groups are fighting for control of mining sites and the production and trading of strategic minerals.

Tomorrow (12 March), Council members are expected to hold a breakfast meeting with women civil society representatives to discuss the issue of conflict-related sexual violence. They will also visit camps hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) and a transit centre for children demobilised from armed groups, after which they will conclude their visiting mission and return to New York.

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