What's In Blue

Posted Wed 26 Jun 2024

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Vote on a 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 2025, and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2025.

France and Sierra Leone, the co-penholders on DRC sanctions, shared an initial draft of the resolution with all Council members on 14 June and convened one round of negotiations on 18 June. The co-penholders circulated a revised text on 20 June and requested comments until the following day (21 June). Switzerland proposed language on due process supported by Ecuador, Malta, and Slovenia. The co-penholders circulated another revised text on Monday (24 June), that included preambular and operative language on due process, for a further round of comments until Tuesday (25 June). The US opposed the inclusion of operative language on due process and Russia also insisted on language on unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) that it had proposed during the negotiations. Subsequently, the co-penholders placed the text under silence until this morning (26 June) with technical edits and preambular language on due process. It passed the silence procedure, and the co-penholders subsequently placed the text in blue.


The Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee submitted its final report (S/2024/432) in late April, describing the escalating security situation in eastern DRC, among other things. The report notes that military interventions and operations by the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) “extended beyond mere support” for operations of the armed group the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) to “direct and decisive involvement, allowing RDF and M23 to achieve military dominance” in several areas of North Kivu province. It also explains how the deployment of advanced military technology bolstered joint M23-RDF operations and affected conflict dynamics, including by forcing the grounding of all military air assets of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).

On the other hand, the report notes that the Congolese government continued to use armed militias known locally as Wazalendo (patriots) and the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR)—an ethnic Hutu armed group active in eastern DRC—as proxies in the fight against the M23 and the RDF. It also says that “[t]he instructions of the FARDC chief of staff to end collaboration with FDLR were not heeded” and that the FDLR remained an important actor in the conflict, despite having come under pressure. The report also refers to the support provided to the FARDC by the Burundi National Defence Force deployed in eastern DRC as part of a bilateral arrangement, as well as by private military companies and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC) deployed in eastern DRC since December 2023.

The report describes child recruitment on an unprecedented scale, which corresponds with the findings of the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on children and armed conflict, dated 3 June and covering developments in 2023, in which the DRC was cited as a country where violence against children in armed conflict has reached extreme levels. The report of the Group of Experts also details the illegal exploitation of natural resources by most armed actors, including the Wazalendo and the M23, rendering the region’s minerals ineligible for trade and posing a serious risk of supply chain contamination.

On 24 May, the Group of Experts briefed the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee on the report, including its findings and recommendations. These include calling on the Congolese government to cease all cooperation with armed groups, particularly the FDLR, and to investigate and prosecute individuals—including FARDC members—responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and those involved in illegal mining activities. It also calls on the Rwandan government to withdraw its armed forces and weaponry from the DRC.

Additionally, the report of the Group of Experts calls on the Rwandan, Burundian, and Ugandan governments to cease supporting foreign and local armed groups active in the DRC, to investigate and prosecute individuals and networks involved in smuggling gold from the country, and to investigate the recruitment and cross-border trafficking of minors from refugee camps for the benefit of the M23. Like Burundi, Uganda also has forces operating in eastern DRC under a bilateral agreement. The Group of Experts stated in its report that it has “obtained evidence confirming active support for M23 by certain UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Force] and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence officials”, allegations which Uganda denies. At the time of writing, it does not appear that Council members have reached consensus on some of these recommendations.

The DRC has been urging the Security Council to impose sanctions on Rwanda, as highlighted in its letter to the Council dated 8 May. Some Council members—including France, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the US—have also been vocal in calling for Rwanda to end its support for the M23 and withdraw from Congolese territory. However, as there has been no consensus among Council members on explicitly referencing the role of external actors in Council products, the likelihood of members responding to the DRC’s request appears remote. That said, the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee approved requests by France, the UK, and the US for the designation of individuals from the M23, the FDLR, and other armed groups operating in eastern DRC on 27 September 2023 and 20 February.

Draft Resolution in Blue

The negotiations on the draft text were apparently smooth. The initial draft proposed by the co-penholders contained only a few technical updates to resolution 2688 of 27 June 2023, which last renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts. It also included new preambular and operative language which clarified the exemption of the Congolese armed and security forces from the embargo imposed on the supply of military equipment and assistance under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime. This seems to be consistent with a 2 May note issued by the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee to inform banks, shipowners, carriers, financial institutions, and firms operating in the military field that the Council lifted the notification requirement on the provision of such assistance to the DRC pursuant to resolution 2667 of 20 December 2022.

As mentioned above, Russia proposed to include language on UCMs during the negotiations. The preambular language, which appears to be based on text proposed by Russia in April during the negotiations on the mandate renewal of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, expresses “deep concern at the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures and, therefore, stress[es] the utmost need to refrain from promulgating and applying such measures against Member States, including those under United Nations Security Council sanctions”. However, it appears that the co-penholders did not include the proposed language on UCMs, arguing that it is not agreed language.

During the negotiations, Switzerland also proposed including preambular and operative language on due process based on agreed language from previous resolutions on the Haiti, Somalia, and South Sudan sanctions regimes. The proposed language recognises the need to “safeguard due process to promote fair and clear delisting procedures” in terms of the designation list under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime, which, in Switzerland’s view, would strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of UN sanctions regimes. The co-penholders included the proposed language, but the US opposed its inclusion in the operative section. The co-penholders maintained only the preambular language on due process in the draft resolution in blue.


Post-script: On 27 June, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2738, extending the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime until 1 July 2025, and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2025.

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