posted on Thu 19 Dec 2019 12:27 AM
Democratic Republic of the Congo: UN Mission Mandate Renewal

Today (19 December), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) before it expires on 20 December. Council members had the first read-through of the zero-draft resolution, submitted by penholder France, on 2 December. Since then, there have been several rounds of negotiations with all members, as well as bilaterally. France put a draft resolution under silence on 16 December, but silence was broken by several member states. A final draft was ultimately agreed on 18 December and put in blue.

The draft resolution to be voted on today renews MONUSCO’s mandate until 20 December 2020. It maintains the dual strategic priorities of the mission: protection of civilians and supporting the stabilisation and strengthening of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) state institutions. The draft also begins to take steps towards the eventual closure of MONUSCO, beginning with the request to the Secretary-General to work with the DRC government to create an exit strategy, with benchmarks, to be proposed to the Council no later than 20 October. However, while that point was without contention, several other elements proved difficult during negotiations.

In essence, members disagreed on how much the MONUSCO mandate should be altered. Some members, mainly the US, wanted significant changes to the MONUSCO mandate in this resolution—including with regard to the duration of the mission’s drawdown and the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB)—arguing that after the nine-month technical rollover in March the moment for transformation was now.

Others said that it was hasty to make changes while some information was still missing, citing two elements. First, they believe that vital input is lacking from the DRC government as the host state. The team conducting the independent strategic review of MONUSCO, which was requested by resolution 2463 of 29 March, undertook two visits to the DRC but was unable to consult with the DRC government. In an 8 November letter to the President of the Security Council, the DRC Permanent Representative informed the Council that the government had established a committee to consider the independent strategic review of MONUSCO and had begun conducting internal consultations on MONUSCO’s future mandate. However, despite constant inquiries from the Council, the DRC did not convey its views on the strategic review in time to be considered during negotiations. The closest they have come to this, to date, was a statement from President Félix Tshisekedi on 12 December indicating that the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) should remain. Second, the UN recently decided to send Lt. Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz to eastern DRC in order to assess MONUSCO’s ability to deliver its mandate to protect civilians and make recommendations. His report is reportedly due in February or March. Details remain scarce, but Council members are interested in his opinion, particularly on the role of the FIB.

A flashpoint during the negotiation process was the future of the FIB. The US is a strong critic of the FIB and would ultimately like to see it dissolved, suggesting instead that MONUSCO’s mandate incorporate a robust offensive capability. Meanwhile, South Africa remains a vocal supporter of the FIB, and argued for an increase in its capacities. South Africa believes that the security situation has not improved sufficiently to warrant the FIB’s removal. Additionally, some significant troop-contributing countries (TCCs) also argued during negotiations that it would be unfair to expect their peacekeepers in MONUSCO to be prepared for a more robust mandate.

As a compromise, France prepared new language aligning the FIB more explicitly with other MONUSCO structures and goals. The overall idea is to make the FIB more efficient and effective, something supported by several Council members. Eventually, the US acquiesced to this compromise language. The paragraph that focuses on the FIB now adds text “underlin[ing] that the entire MONUSCO force, including the Intervention Brigade, must prioritise the implementation of its protection of civilians mandate”.

Additionally, the US wanted to include in the resolution a line saying that in the best-case scenario MONUSCO will leave the DRC in three years. While many members agreed that it was important to include something in the resolution referring to an exit strategy, reference to a specific end-date was not acceptable to all other members. Eventually, a compromise was reached in which the draft resolution notes that the independent strategic review made an assessment that “an absolute minimum transition period of three years is required.”

There are other additions to the MONUSCO text. Near the end of the draft resolution there is a new paragraph explicitly encouraging the DRC government to undertake tasks, such as appointing a senior coordinator to lead the DRC’s disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs and initiating disciplinary and judicial procedures against DRC officials engaged in corruption, in accordance with the country’s legislation. Some members believed this detailed operative paragraph was too demanding in telling a host state what it should do, while others supported this as in line with the idea of benchmarks.

New language was added to the operative part of the resolution about mission effectiveness, similar to language recently incorporated in the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). This refers both to the mandate of MONUSCO as a whole and the FIB specifically, and supports the idea of repatriating underperforming units. TCCs have previously expressed the view that such language is too strong in the context of MINUSCA, arguing that there are tools other than repatriation for addressing problems. The draft resolution urges TCCs “to take appropriate steps to investigate allegations”, along with repatriating when there is credible evidence.

During negotiations, there was some disagreement on the regional dimension and the role of Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. Some members wanted to make his involvement and duties more explicit, emphasising his role in the DRC. Others, including one permanent member, wanted the language to remain as is. This required a bilateral compromise that was eventually reached. The final draft removes earlier proposed language about the Special Envoy developing a regional strategy and simply reiterates the Council’s full support to the Special Envoy in fulfilling his mandate.

Germany proposed new preambular language about the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes, among other factors, on the stability of the DRC. It was accepted with some modifications, after it faced resistance on the grounds that this is not a topic for the Security Council and that there is little proof that these are among the DRC’s main challenges.  Attempts to include language on climate and security in other outcomes have faced similar discussions.

Finally, there were disagreements on the troop ceiling number, with different Council members suggesting that any increase in police, as called for by the Secretary-General, must be met with a decrease in troops. Ultimately, the draft sets the authorised troop ceiling at 14,000 military personnel and 591 police personnel, while maintaining the numbers of military observers, staff officers, and personnel of formed police units.  In his latest report on MONUSCO, the Secretary-General recommended a troop reduction by 1,650 and a temporary increase of 360 formed police unit personnel from the last mandated troop ceiling of 16,215 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

Council members met with Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix to discuss the independent strategic review on 13 November in closed consultations. In his periodic report on MONUSCO in late November, the Secretary-General underscored his belief that MONUSCO remained important in the DRC and called for the Council to renew its mandate for one year.