Democratic Republic of the Congo: Vote on Resolution Renewing the Sanctions Regime*
Tomorrow morning (27 June), the Security Council will vote on a draft resolution renewing the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime until 1 July 2024, and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2024. France, the penholder on the DRC, shared an initial draft of the resolution with all Council members on 16 June and convened one round of negotiations on Wednesday (21 June). A revised text was then put under silence procedure on Thursday (22 June) until Friday (23 June) morning. The draft text passed silence and was subsequently put in blue.
Last year’s negotiations on the extension of the 1533 DRC sanctions regime were contentious in light of the Congolese government’s request for the lifting of the notification requirements imposed by resolution 1807 of 31 March 2008. This resolution required 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. Even though the penholder made certain modifications to accommodate this request, five Council members (China, Gabon, Ghana, Russia, and then-member Kenya) abstained on resolution 2641 of 29 June 2022, which renewed the 1533 DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. (For more information, see our 29 June 2022 What’s in Blue story.)
The request to lift the notification requirement then arose in connection with the negotiations on the mandate renewal of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in December 2022. 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. During last year’s mandate renewal negotiations, several Council members supported adding a provision lifting the notification requirement. Other members were not comfortable with doing this in the MONUSCO draft resolution, arguing that the Council should wait until July 2023, when the 1533 DRC sanctions regime was set to be extended. The penholder proposed a short separate draft text stipulating the lifting of the advance notification requirement, which was adopted as resolution 2667 of 20 December 2022. The resolution also requested the Congolese government to provide a confidential report on its weapons and ammunition management by 31 May. (For more information, see our 19 December 2022 What’s in Blue story.)
The draft text in blue extends the 1533 DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2024 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2024. It does not alter the measures of the 1533 DRC sanctions regime or the mandate of the Group of Experts. This year’s negotiations were apparently smooth. The initial draft proposed by the penholder contained only a few new additions, including language welcoming the report submitted by the Congolese government pursuant to resolution 2667 on its weapons and ammunition management. It also included language from resolution 2666, which renewed the MONUSCO mandate for one year, strongly condemning any kind of support to armed groups and reaffirming the Council’s support for national and regional efforts to promote peace and stability in the DRC and the region. It seems that these suggestions were acceptable to Council members and are included in the draft text in blue.
The draft text in blue also contains new language reaffirming the importance of ensuring the safety and security of members of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. In March 2017, two members of the Group of Experts—Zaida Catalán (Sweden) and Michael Sharp (US)—and four Congolese nationals accompanying them were abducted while they were investigating reports of mass atrocities in the Kasai region. Their bodies were found two weeks later. The UN has established a “Follow-on Mechanism” to support the investigation by Congolese authorities to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. On 29 January 2022, a Congolese military court rendered a verdict convicting 51 people in relation to the killing of the two former members of the Group of Experts and their associates. The draft resolution in blue welcomes the efforts of the Congolese government and the work of the UN Follow-on Mechanism and encourages their continued cooperation.
It seems that the only issue during the negotiations was Switzerland’s proposal to include preambular language on the Office of the Ombudsperson—which is responsible for reviewing requests for removal from the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions list—with a view to promoting a transparent and fair delisting procedure, which would strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of UN sanctions regimes. Language on the Office of the Ombudsperson was previously incorporated in resolution 2653 of 21 October 2022 which established the Haiti sanctions regime. The proposed language expressed the Council’s intent to improve due process in sanctions regimes and consider the extension of the Ombudsperson’s mandate to the DRC sanctions regime. Other Council members opposed the Swiss proposal, however, and expressed a preference to address the issue more broadly across all sanctions regimes. The reference to the Ombudsperson was therefore not included in the draft text in blue.
At today’s (26 June) regular Council meeting on the DRC, several Council members referenced the final report of the Group of Experts, which was published on 13 June. The Group of Experts presented further evidence implicating Rwanda in direct interventions inside Congolese territory, either to reinforce combatants of the M23 movement or to conduct military operations against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and local armed groups. (The M23 is an armed group operating in the DRC’s North Kivu province that was dormant in the past decade and became active again in 2022; the FDLR is an ethnic Hutu armed group active in eastern DRC.) The report identified several Rwandan Armed Forces (RDF) commanders and officials coordinating these operations. In a 22 June statement, Rwanda criticised the report and blamed the Group of Experts for continuing to “propagate dangerous distortions and fabrications”.
The Group of Experts also provided evidence that local armed groups and the FDLR have created an entity called the “Congolese Patriotic Resistance Network” to fight the M23 alongside the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). The report said that senior FARDC officers had coordinated these operations and supported the armed groups with logistics, military equipment, and financing. At today’s Council meeting on the situation in the DRC, some Council members expressed serious concerns about Rwanda’s continued support to the M23 and the Congolese government’s cooperation with the FDLR. Others referred to the recent attacks perpetrated by the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo (CODECO), a coalition of armed groups active in Ituri province, and by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group affiliated with the ISIL/Da’esh, and called for sanctions to be imposed against those who continue to obstruct peace and commit abuses.
*Post-script: On 27 June, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2688, extending the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions regime until 1 July 2024, and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2024.