posted on THU 30 MAR 2017 6:00 PM
Vote on Draft Resolution Renewing MONUSCO Mandate

Tomorrow (31 March), the Security Council is set to renew the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), including that of its force intervention brigade, until 31 March 2018.

The negotiations over the draft resolution started on 21 March. Council members held two meetings on the text last week, and following a third meeting on 27 March, the adoption, which had been originally scheduled for 29 March, was postponed. The most contentious issue, in the context of the announced US intention to review peacekeeping operations, was the difficulty in getting agreement on the number of troops and of formed police units. The draft resolution was finally put in blue this afternoon.

In negotiating the mandate of the mission, members considered the information and recommendations in the latest 10 March report of the Secretary-General on MONUSCO (S/2017/206).The report makes clear that there has been only limited progress in the implementation of the agreement on the electoral process of 31 December 2016 between the government and the main opposition groups, which called for presidential and legislative elections by the end of 2017 and provided for transitional arrangements. The report also states that, in recent months, violence and threats to civilians are no longer concentrated in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as community-based violence and inter-ethnic clashes have spread to other areas, including the Kasai provinces.

Since the report was issued, the bodies of two members of the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, who went missing in Kasai Central province since 12 March along with four Congolese nationals, were discovered on 24 March. In a press statement (SC/12769) released on 29 March, Council members called on the DRC “to swiftly and fully investigate these crimes” and encouraged a UN inquiry into the matter, in accordance with the statement by the Secretary-General on 28 March 2017. They underlined that attacks targeting civilians, such as these UN-appointed personnel, may constitute war crimes under international law.

Regarding MONUSCO’s troop strength, two years ago, in resolution 2211 of March 2015, the Council endorsed the recommendation of the Secretary-General to reduce its force by 2,000 troops, while maintaining an authorised troop ceiling of 19,815. On this basis, MONUSCO’s level of troops deployed has been under 17,000 for the last two years.

In resolution 2277 of March 2016, the Council took note of a recommendation of the Secretary-General to reduce the MONUSCO force by a further 1,700 troops. In the context of a rift between MONUSCO and the DRC government, which was pressing for an exit strategy for the mission, the Secretary-General explained this recommendation as “a concrete step towards facilitating the resumption of the strategic dialogue between the United Nations and the Government” [S/2016/233]. However, the Council retained the troop ceiling of 19,815 as authorised in resolution 2211, in view of the political tensions around elections at the time.

In his 10 March report, the Secretary-General noted that since MONUSCO cannot establish a sufficient military presence in all high-risk areas at once to satisfactorily fulfil its mandate within its existing resources, efforts to improve its ability to respond quickly to emerging threats, with a focus on prevention and mitigation, will continue. At the same time, the report stated that adjustments “will not result in any increase in personnel”. He did not propose any change in the troop ceiling.

In light of the above, as they entered into negotiations, most Council members were of the view that due to the current security and political situation in the DRC, this was not the right time to lower the troop ceiling. However, as part of a declared intention to review missions and identify areas where mandates no longer match political realities, the US took the position that a troop reduction should take place. The draft resolution circulated by France, apparently after discussions among the P5, would have reduced MONUSCO’s troop ceiling to 17,000 military personnel thus making permanent the conditional troop reduction of resolution 2211.

In his latest report, the Secretary-General pointed out that the resurgence of violence across the country has been exacerbated by the current uncertain political situation, leading to a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty. The risk of violence related to elections, mainly in urban areas, is also increasing, and is expected to rise further the longer the implementation of the political agreement remains stalled. In light of these findings, the Secretary-General requested the Council to increase the authorised ceiling for the police component from 1,050 to 1,370 personnel, in order to establish a police presence in Lubumbashi and Kananga, which he said are likely to be electoral hotspots and currently lack a formed police unit presence. Accordingly, the French draft text included an increase in personnel of formed police units from 1,050 to 1,370, as requested.

During negotiations on 24 March, the UK and the US called for a further decrease in troop levels, of up to 1,700 military personnel. France and most other Council members took the view that the situation in the DRC, particularly during the upcoming election period, does not allow for lowering the troop levels any further at this time. It seems that in addition to wanting to reduce the level of military personnel, the UK and US took the position during the negotiations that the number of formed police units’ personnel should be increased by a more modest number than recommended. The meeting concluded with France agreeing to elicit the views of the Secretariat as to the feasibility of further troop reductions. Apparently the Secretariat then told Council members that it stands by the troop ceiling in accordance with the Secretary-General’s report but that reducing it by a further 500 would allow them to carry out the mandate. In addition, the Secretariat suggested that instead of increasing the personnel level of formed police units, the mission could reinforce its police presence through inter-mission cooperation with a temporary deployment from a neighbouring peacekeeping operation.

During the 27 March meeting to negotiate the text, most Council members were still uncomfortable with further reductions given the serious situation in the country. However, with the US and UK insisting that the number of actual troops deployed be reduced, and in light of the information provided by the Secretariat as to where reductions could perhaps be made without too adversely affecting its ability carry out its mandate, the final draft resolution set the troop ceiling at 16,215.

Regarding the issue of formed police units, Council members accepted the idea that MONUSCO will temporarily increase the personnel of its formed police units via temporary reinforcements from other missions. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to explore the possibility of inter-mission cooperation, subject to the Council’s approval and the agreement of the troop and police-contributing countries, and to report back to the Council with any further recommendations as necessary.

In addition to the disagreement among Council members, the reduction of troop levels has been an issue for MONUSCO’s troop-contributing countries (TCCs) and police-contributing countries (PCCs), which apparently were not consulted on the proposal to reduce MONUSCO’s troop levels. The issue was discussed during a meeting with the TCCs and PCCs at the French mission on 22 March.

Another issue that caused tensions with TCCs and PCCs concerned reporting. Apparently some Council members took the view that the reporting of the Secretary-General should include instances where the mission’s protection of civilians obligations are not fully met, which the TCCs saw as a way to single out under-performance of specific contingents. In order to discuss the discontent with this suggestion, the TCCs met at the Egyptian mission on 29 March to consider the changes being proposed and their rationale. (Egypt is a TCC to MONUSCO).Following this meeting language was inserted indicating that reporting would include instances where the mission “is not effectively fulfilling its protection of civilians mandate, and the circumstances surrounding these instances”, including measures to ensure MONUSCO’s effectiveness. In addition, at the suggestion of Egypt, a paragraph was inserted in the draft resolution recognising that failure to implement MONUSCO’s mandate was a result of a myriad of issues, some of which were not related to contingent performance.

The draft resolution provides for increased reporting from the Secretary-General. In addition to the current reporting on the situation in the DRC every three months, and reporting on the implementation of the commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and the region every six months, the Secretary-General is now requested to provide a written update on the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement and the preparation of the elections every 45 days (when no regular reports are due).

The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of MONUSCO, examining the continued relevance of all mandated tasks, priorities and related resources, by 30 September. The review is to provide options for a reduction of MONUSCO’s military and civilian components, to be made after the successful implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement culminating in the conduct of elections by the end of the year, and sustainable progress in reducing the threat of armed groups. After the implementation of the agreement, the Secretary-General is to advise the Council on a phased exit strategy for the mission.