Democratic Republic of the Congo: Meeting and Presidential Statement
This morning (29 March), 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). Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita will brief on recent developments in the DRC and the activities of the mission. Representatives of Burundi, the DRC, and Rwanda are expected to participate in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. France and Gabon, which co-led the Council’s visiting mission to the DRC from 9 to 12 March, are expected to brief the Council on the visit. (For more information on the visiting mission, see our 8, 10, 11, and 13 March What’s in Blue stories.)
As a follow-up to the visiting mission, France, the penholder on the DRC, proposed a draft presidential statement that is expected to be adopted today.
Draft Presidential Statement
France circulated the draft text to members for comments until 23 March (Thursday). The penholder then placed a revised version of the text under silence until yesterday (28 March), but Russia, Switzerland, and the US broke the silence procedure. Russia apparently wanted to include language welcoming the deployment of the East African Community (EAC) regional force in eastern DRC, the US sought to include language on hate speech, and Switzerland wanted a stronger reference to international law. However, the penholder placed the draft text under silence with no changes until 9:00 am today (29 March) and it passed.
The agreed text strongly condemns the increase in attacks by the M23—an armed group operating in North Kivu province that was dormant over the past decade but became active again in 2022—and demands that the group immediately cease hostilities, stop further advances, and withdraw from all occupied areas. It seems that Council members were divided on how to reference Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23. During the Council’s visiting mission, the Congolese authorities repeatedly accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 and urged the Council to respond to what they called “Rwanda’s aggression”. Although the zero draft included an explicit reference to Rwanda, some members opposed it. As a result, the agreed text uses broad language demanding that “all external parties immediately cease their support to Security Council-sanctioned M23 and withdraw from the DRC”. The agreed text expresses concern over the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, calls for calm and dialogue between the two countries, and encourages the building of trust and confidence in the region in line with Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes Region (PSC Framework).
The other contentious issue was the role of hate speech in fueling intercommunal violence in eastern DRC. It seems that some African members were sensitive to the views expressed during the visiting mission by the Congolese authorities and other stakeholders, who argued that their efforts to defend the DRC’s sovereignty against Rwanda’s “aggression” should not be construed as hate speech. Although the zero draft had a reference to hate speech, the agreed text only expresses concern about the intensification of misinformation and disinformation.
The agreed text demands that all members of armed groups unconditionally participate in dialogue within the framework of the ongoing regional initiatives to pave the way for the implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation, community recovery and stabilisation programme (P-DDRCS). The text further stresses the need to ensure enhanced complementarity of regional efforts with support from the Secretary-General, MONUSCO, and the office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region.
The text also underlines the Council’s readiness to designate, under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime, those individuals and entities undermining peace and security in eastern DRC, “including by providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, a designated individual or entity”.
Briefing on the Situation in the DRC
Keita may highlight the Secretary-General’s latest report on the DRC, which was issued on 20 March and covers the period from 1 December 2022 to 20 March (S/2023/208). She is likely to focus on recent political developments, particularly the preparation for the general elections scheduled to take place in December. Keita may refer to the voter registration process, which was launched on 24 December 2022, and note that the security challenge in some provinces, including in eastern DRC, have hindered the process.
Keita may refer to the 20 December 2022 official request by the Congolese government to the UN for electoral support and the integrated electoral task force established by MONUSCO and the UN Country Team (UNCT) to coordinate electoral support, including through civic education, election observation, and logistical support for the transportation and delivery of election materials. Council members are likely to continue encouraging Congolese political stakeholders to work toward peaceful, transparent, inclusive, and credible elections in December in line with the country’s constitution and electoral law. They may also reiterate the need to promote the full, equal, effective, and meaningful participation of women and youth in electoral processes.
The security situation in eastern DRC is expected to be a significant focus of today’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report describes the deteriorating security situation in this part of the country due to the increasing military activities of foreign and domestic armed groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO), the M23, the Mai-Mai group, and the RED Tabara. The report notes that Congolese and Ugandan armed forces targeting the ADF in North Kivu and Congolese and Burundian armed forces targeting RED Tabara in South Kivu have not improved the security situation. It also refers to the M23’s expanding control of areas in North Kivu. Furthermore, the report describes two incidents in North Kivu and South Kivu that escalated tensions between the DRC and Rwanda: first, Rwanda fired at a Congolese fighter jet on 24 January, allegedly for violating its airspace, an accusation that the Congolese government has denied; second, the naval forces of the two countries exchanged fire on Lake Kivu on 28 January after Congolese fishermen were reportedly detained by Rwandan forces.
Kieta may explain the latest developments regarding the ongoing regional mediation initiatives under the auspices of the EAC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), known as the Nairobi and Luanda processes, respectively. She may refer to, among other things, the EAC and ICGLR mini-summit held on 17 February in Addis Ababa on the margins of the 36th AU Summit, which decided that the M23 should withdraw from all occupied areas until 30 March. The chair of the ICGLR, Angolan President João Lourenço, secured a ceasefire between the Congolese armed forces and the M23, which was expected to take effect on 7 March. However, fighting continued unabated with the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) accusing the M23 of violating the ceasefire. Subsequently, Angola decided to deploy 500 troops in North Kivu for 12 months to secure areas where the M23 is supposed to be stationed after a ceasefire and to protect members of the Ad-Hoc Verification Mechanism established under the Luanda process.
Regarding MONUSCO’s transition plan, Keita is likely to mention that she met with the Congolese government on 6 January following the adoption of resolution 2666 of 20 December 2022, which renewed the mission’s mandate for one year. She may also refer to the technical-level discussions that were held in February with a particular focus on the minimum-security conditions for the mission’s responsible drawdown.
During the Council’s visiting mission, the Congolese government announced its intention to retain only four of the 18 benchmarks contained in the transition plan—namely security; protection of civilians; implementation of the P-DDRCS; and progress on the electoral process—and to transfer the remaining benchmarks to the UN Country Team for their implementation. It also seems that the Congolese government wants to make more use of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), which has been deployed as a part of MONUSCO since 2013, to carry out targeted offensive operations against armed groups operating in eastern DRC.
At today’s meeting, Council members are likely to reiterate their continued support for the ongoing regional efforts to address the difficult security situation in the eastern DRC and defuse regional tensions. In this regard, they may call for all parties concerned to adhere to the decisions adopted under the Nairobi and Luanda processes. Some Council members are likely to take a strong stance on Rwanda’s alleged support of the M23. Council members may also 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 share their impression from the visiting mission and their interaction with civil society representatives and internally displaced persons. Although there was no agreement on referencing hate speech in the draft presidential statement, some Council members highlight the escalation of hate speech and its impact in fueling inter-communal violence in their interventions.