posted on Wed 21 Jan 2015 5:31 PM
Briefings on the DRC: MONUSCO and Sanctions

Tomorrow morning (22 January), the Council will be briefed on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and by Special Representative Martin Kobler, the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). The Council will also be briefed by the Chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Dina Kawar (Jordan), on the report of the Group of Experts assisting the Committee. The briefings will be followed by consultations, and at this time, no outcome is expected.

Ladsous will likely focus his briefing on the strategic review of MONUSCO submitted to the Council on 30 December 2014 (S/2014/957). (In accordance with resolution 2147, the Secretary-General conducted the review to provide recommendations on MONUSCO’s future objectives, activities and exit strategy.) The review concludes that MONUSCO’s presence in the DRC will likely be required for several more years, and that while the current mandate is comprehensive, its implementation has only been partially successful. The review notes criticism from national interlocutors that the level of engagement of some of MONUSCO’s contingents is too low. It also argues for a more agile and proactive approach for MONUSCO’s operations. The work of MONUSCO’s intervention brigade is well appreciated, according to the review. In addition, the review argues that MONUSCO’s eventual departure should be contemplated in light of the DRC’s ability to take over the mission’s functions. While President Joseph Kabila has publicly voiced his wish to see MONUSCO start reducing its troop numbers significantly—a view that the DRC shared with the strategic review team—the review recommends only a modest troop decrease of approximately 2,000, considering its recommendation that MONUSCO assume a more agile and proactive posture and in light of the improved security in certain parts of the DRC.

Kobler will brief on the latest MONUSCO report (S/2014/596) and provide further updates on developments concerning the voluntary surrender of members of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) since his 5 January 2015 Council briefing. (The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region [ICGLR] and the Southern African Development Community [SADC] on 2 July had given the FDLR an ultimatum for voluntary surrender by 2 January 2015. An 18-20 October 2014 meeting of the ICGLR and SADC concluded that no progress in the voluntary surrender of the FDLR had been achieved and that, consequently, military action would be needed if this did not change. In a letter submitted to the Council by the DRC on 6 January 2015 [S/2015/9], the DRC indicated that only 337 combatants had surrendered their weapons as of 28 December 2014).

Kobler is also likely to brief on the readiness of MONUSCO, particularly of the intervention brigade, to engage in combat with the FDLR. The Council will also be interested in any information Kobler can provide on sub-regional political developments on this issue and on any progress in the DRC’s approval of the MONUSCO-Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) Joint Directive for military operations (an operational plan for military engagement), which reportedly has yet to be signed by Kabila. At the same time, Council members will also be keen to learn about the activities of other armed groups severely affecting the civilian population, such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operating in North Kivu and on the internal political tensions in Kinshasa.

In recent months, the contingents of the intervention brigade (composed of troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania) were reportedly hesitant to engage with the FDLR, as has been the FARDC, which has reportedly cooperated with the FDLR in the past. However, in its 6 January letter, the DRC stated that military action against the FDLR is inevitable and that all necessary operational measures will be taken to that effect. In a telephone conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 7 January, Kabila assured him that the DRC was ready to take action, with the available assistance of MONUSCO. On 14 January, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete stated his country’s commitment to take on the FDLR. South African foreign ministry officials have also reportedly expressed their commitment to the neutralisation “of negative forces in the eastern DRC”.

A joint SADC-ICGLR summit on the FDLR issue was scheduled for 15-16 January in Angola. On 9 January, Angolan foreign minister, Georges Chikoti, announced the cancellation of the meeting, adding that the FDLR issue is now in the hands of MONUSCO.

The Council has been following the status of the FDLR closely in recent months. On 8 January, after the passing of the January deadline for the surrender of the FDLR, the Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2015/1) noting that the FDLR had not only failed to meet the demobilisation deadline, but that it had also continued to recruit new fighters. The statement stresses that the approximately 300 FDLR members that have surrendered, “consisting of mainly old and non-essential combatants”, do not meet the condition of full demobilisation of the armed group as required. The statement further takes note of the DRC’s declaration that military action is “inevitable” and reiterates the need for the DRC, together with MONUSCO, through its intervention brigade, to neutralise the FDLR by commencing military operations immediately. To that end, it calls on Kabila to immediately approve the MONUSCO-FARDC Joint Directive. The presidential statement also calls on all parties, including the Force Intervention Brigade troop-contributing countries, to remain committed to the full and objective implementation of the mission’s mandate, including military operations to neutralise the FDLR.

Tomorrow’s Council meeting takes place against the backdrop of unrest in the capital city of Kinshasa, where protestors demonstrating against plans to conduct a census in the country have been clashing with government forces since 19 January. The protestors are concerned that the conduct of a census could cause significant delays in holding parliamentary and presidential elections planned for 2016, thus allowing Kabila to stay in power beyond the expiration of his second term in office. Local human rights activists claim that 28 people have been killed in the protests thus far, while the government alleges that five people have been killed.

With respect to the DRC sanctions briefing and consultations, the discussion is likely to focus on the Group of Experts’ report, which Council members received advance copies of in December 2014. The Group notes that several rebel groups are still active or pose a serious threat, including the ADF, the M23 and the FDLR. The report also notes the continued illegal exploitation of, and trade in, natural resources, which in turn finance various rebel groups. Later this month, Council members are expected to commence negotiations on the renewal of the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts, which expire on 1 February.

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