What's In Blue

Posted Fri 13 Oct 2023

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Adoption of a Presidential Statement

On Monday morning (16 October), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). France, the penholder on the file, proposed the draft text following the 28 September Security Council meeting on the situation in the DRC, including the work of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). (For more information, see our 27 September What’s in Blue story.)

The draft presidential statement covers four main issues: the implementation of MONUSCO’s transition plan, ongoing regional efforts to address the situation in eastern DRC, the role of armed groups, and the upcoming elections in the DRC in December. The penholder proposed the draft text to respond to various recent developments concerning the DRC.

The negotiations, which were conducted via email exchange, were apparently long and difficult, leading to substantial revision of the original draft text. France circulated a zero draft to Council members after the 28 September Council meeting and revised the text several times in response to comments and suggestions made by the three African members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique, known as the A3) and several other Council members.

The text was placed under silence procedure until 6 October, which China broke over several issues, including language on coordination among regional and troop- and -police contributing countries, on the timeline for MONUSCO’s withdrawal, and on reports of the Group of Experts (GoE) assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee. Several other Council members also sent additional comments on the draft.

The penholder made further revisions to the text to address these comments and placed it under a second silence procedure until Tuesday afternoon (10 October), which Mozambique broke over the reference to the GoE reports. The penholder made minor changes to try and accommodate Mozambique’s concerns and placed the draft under silence for a third time, but Mozambique again broke silence over the same issue. The penholder made additional revisions and placed the text under silence for the fourth time until yesterday afternoon (12 October), which it finally passed.

It seems that the A3 suggested extensive revisions—some of which were supported by other members—in an effort to reflect the Congolese government’s position on several issues addressed in the presidential statement. The A3 also sought to restructure the text with a focus on MONUSCO’s transition, a major point of discussion during the 28 September Council meeting. In particular, they wanted to include the Congolese government’s request to start the mission’s withdrawal before the end of this year, which the Congolese authorities conveyed in their 1 September letter to the president of the Security Council.

The DRC’s Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula attended the 28 September meeting and explained his country’s position on the matter to the Council. In their interventions, most Council members recognised the need to take into account the host country’s views. Many also emphasised the need to ensure MONUSCO’s orderly, gradual, and responsible withdrawal in light of the evolving security situation on the ground, a point which was apparently also raised during the negotiations on the draft presidential statement. In this regard, the agreed text expresses the Security Council’s “readiness to decide by the end of 2023 on the future of MONUSCO, its gradual, responsible and sustainable withdrawal and the concrete and realistic steps to be undertaken, as a matter of priority to implement this withdrawal”.

The A3 also proposed language on the development of timelines and detailed modalities for the implementation of the revised transition plan. The Congolese government requested that the implementation of the transition be accelerated following the July 2022 anti-MONUSCO protests that led to the death of four peacekeepers. Accordingly, MONUSCO has reached an understanding with the Congolese government on a revised transition plan that focuses on four key benchmarks—namely, the protection of civilians; implementation of the Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS); security sector reform (SSR); and the electoral process—but no timeline has been given for the implementation of the revised transition plan.

In her press stakeout following the 28 September Council meeting, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC and head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita noted that the revised transition plan had only been endorsed at the technical level and that there would be high-level engagement between the mission and the Congolese government to elaborate a detailed action plan, which is expected to be presented to the Security Council. The agreed presidential statement requests MONUSCO and the Congolese government to develop, by November, a comprehensive disengagement plan with a timetable for MONUSCO’s progressive and orderly withdrawal, building on the revised transition plan and its four key benchmarks.

The A3 apparently sought to remove references to the Nairobi and Luanda processes, which refer to the regional initiatives by the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), respectively, to address the situation in eastern DRC. These members also proposed removing language that encourages support for the EAC regional force (EACRF), which has been deployed in eastern DRC as part of the Nairobi process. On 27 September, EAC Secretary General Peter Mutuku Mathuki briefed Council members in New York in an informal meeting, seeking financial and logistical support for the EACRF. However, some Council members, particularly the US, have voiced criticism of the force. In its intervention at the 28 September Council meeting, the US urged the Council “to avoid endorsing greater support by MONUSCO for the EAC without appropriate safeguards to address human rights, accountability, and command-and-control concerns”. The penholder proposed a compromise that maintains a general reference in support of the regional initiatives and welcomes the 27 June quadripartite summit between the EAC, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the ICGLR, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to coordinate and harmonise the ongoing regional initiatives.

Another contentious issue during the negotiations was over reference to reports of the GoE, which accused Rwanda of supporting the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) of supporting the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). The initial draft text expressed deep concern over the evidence presented by the GoE on those issues and demanded the cessation of such support. Several Council members were not comfortable with this strong language, and Russia apparently argued that the Council should not endorse information provided by the GoE that it considered unverified. Mozambique, as noted earlier, broke silence over this matter. However, other members felt the need for the Council to pronounce itself on the GoE’s findings. France and the US have been vocal on this issue and other members have also referenced it in their interventions since the Council’s visiting mission to the DRC in March.

Eventually, the penholder proposed broad language that led to a compromise. In this regard, the agreed presidential statement expresses the Council’s “deep concern at the information, presented in the annual report of the Group of Experts on the DRC regarding foreign military support provided to M23 and the support also provided by military forces to the FDLR”. Regarding the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, it appears that the final text “calls for calm and increased dialogue between DRC and Rwanda in furtherance of durable peace in the region”, reflecting language preferred by the A3 and China.

It seems that there was also discussion on language relating to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda. The agreed presidential statement’s text draws on a 29 March presidential statement that underscored the need “to ensure the full, equal, effective and meaningful participation of women at all stages” in the electoral process in the DRC. The A3 apparently proposed an amendment that would have weakened this reference. Albania, Ecuador, Brazil, Malta and Switzerland, as well as other Council members, however, insisted on maintaining this language, and it was retained in the final draft.

The final text expresses the Council’s concern about misinformation and disinformation. However, a reference from the zero draft, which would have expressed concern over hate speech fuelling intercommunal violence was not acceptable to some members and was removed. Inputs from several Council members were incorporated into the final text on human rights abuses, sexual and gender-based violence, the large-scale recruitment and use of children, as well as language calling on all actors to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The penholder proposed new language in the zero draft, which would have “welcome[d] the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s decision to conduct a preliminary examination of the information received regarding the alleged crimes under the Rome Statute committed in North Kivu, from 1st January 2022, in response to a referral by the DRC authorities”. During the negotiations, Russia apparently opposed this language, which was subsequently removed from the text.

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