Expected Council Action
In September, the Council will continue to watch the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) closely, and a briefing may be requested depending on developments.
The mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expires on 31 March 2018.
Key Recent Developments
Lack of progress in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process and a transitional government, heightened political repression, and increased violence in different parts of the country have continued to require the Council’s attention.
On 9 July, the president of the DRC electoral commission, Corneille Nangaa, suggested that the timelines needed for voter registration would make it difficult to meet the December 2017 deadline. President Joseph Kabila has made statements that suggest he does not believe elections must occur this year, and various political figures supporting the government have already suggested timetables for elections that stretch into 2018.
The 15 August report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the agreement confirms an increasing trend of violations of political freedoms, compounded by an absence of investigations and accountability for human rights violations. It concludes that failure to create conditions conducive to the holding of timely, peaceful, transparent and credible elections enabling a peaceful transfer of power could deepen the political crisis and have grave results.
In a statement on 1 August, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC and head of MONUSCO Maman Sidikou expressed concern about the more than 120 arbitrary arrests and detentions, including of local and international media representatives, which occurred in various areas of the DRC on 31 July, following peaceful civil society demonstrations calling for the holding of elections before the end of the year. Anti-Kabila protests in early August reportedly resulted in 27 deaths as government forces attempted to disperse crowds.
The violence in the Kasai region continues. Intercommunal violence and clashes between militias and government forces in the region began in August 2016 when the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia was killed in fighting with the DRC police. According to UNHCR, approximately 30,000 people fled the Kasai to Angola between April and 22 June, and 1.3 million people are internally displaced.
On 22 August, Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Peter Drennan briefed Council members under “any other business” on the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry regarding the murder in March of two members of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts, Zaida Catalán (Chile/Sweden) and Michael Sharp (US).
The report itself was not shared with Council members; however, they received the executive summary on 16 August. Regarding the murders, the board found that it was likely that militia groups were responsible for the deaths of Catalán and Sharp and that further investigation is needed to determine the exact identity of the perpetrators. It recommends a further criminal investigation by the DRC with the support of other member states.
The board also reviewed the UN’s security procedures related to the safety of panels of experts. It recommended a review of the management of their activities and a review and adjustment of support arrangements for groups of experts to enable the safe and effective implementation of their mandates. After inquiries from Council members, Drennan said he will keep them updated as to the follow-up on these recommendations.
The report was also briefly discussed during the Secretary-General’s monthly luncheon with Council members on 17 August. The Secretary-General raised various options regarding the way forward with the investigation, along the lines suggested in the board’s report. One such option included a DRC investigation with some UN assistance.
On 17 August, the chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), briefed the Council on the final report of the Group of Experts. The group’s report called on the Council to mandate the Secretary-General to establish an independent international investigation into Catalán and Sharp’s murder. During the meeting, several Council members raised concerns about the continuing political crisis in the DRC and the lack of progress in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement. The US, for example, said that in the absence of a clear election timeline, it will pursue stronger sanctions in the Council. It added that while many of the attacks are perpetrated by armed groups, the government also violates human rights, thus casting doubt on its legitimacy. Russia, on the other hand, warned against any sweeping attempts to blame government forces for the violence until further investigations are conducted.
On 4 August, the DRC Sanctions Committee held an open briefing with interested member states on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC. Following the chair’s opening remarks, the permanent representative of the DRC, Ambassador Ignace wa Lufuta; the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit; the Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Zachary Muburi-Muita; and the Acting Coordinator of the Group of Experts, Zobel Behalal, also delivered statements.
The Group of Experts’ final report tracks the continuing violence by armed groups in the eastern DRC. It notes that these groups are becoming further fragmented, operating in a more decentralised yet heavily networked manner, with foreign and local armed groups increasingly interconnected. The report emphasises that the gold sector continues to suffer from the lack of a traceability system, and gold from conflict areas continues to be illegally exported.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The High Commissioner announced on 26 July, the appointment of three international experts to investigate human rights abuses in the Kasai region as mandated by Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 35/33 of 22 June. The team of experts is expected to investigate reports of “recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, destruction of houses, schools, places of worship, and state infrastructure by local militias, as well as of mass graves” and to present their findings to the HRC in June 2018.
In a 4 August report, OHCHR warned that violence in the Kasai region has taken on “a more pronounced ethnic dimension” with human rights abuses and violations documented against at least 282 victims (including 251 extrajudicial and targeted killings) between 12 March and 19 June. According to the report, the ethnic dimension of the violence has increased since April, with attacks against civilians by DRC government armed forces, the Bana Mura (pro-government militia), and the Kamwina Nsapu (anti-government militia) “often launched along ethnic lines”.
On 15 August, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC released its report on the human rights situation in the country in July. During the month, 398 human rights abuses and violations were documented, representing a 19 percent decrease from June, with state agents (including Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo soldiers and the police) again committing the majority of the violations.
During its 36th session in September, the HRC Council is set to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the DRC in which it will consider the OHCHR report on the human rights situation in the country (A/HRC/36/34).
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for the Council is seeking to ensure that the 31 December 2016 agreement is implemented and that a clear electoral calendar is set for timely elections. Another important issue is addressing the continued violence in the east and the increasing violence in Kasai.
The Council will want to follow up on next steps regarding investigations into the murder of the two experts, and regarding a general review of the security procedures pertaining to panels or groups of experts appointed by the Council.
The Council may convene a meeting on the DRC in accordance with developments on the above issues. The Council may also adopt a resolution or a presidential statement that:
- calls on stakeholders to cooperate and swiftly implement the 31 December 2016 agreement and resolve all outstanding issues in order to hold timely, free and fair elections;
- condemns the mass violence in Kasai and elsewhere and calls for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law; and
- calls on the Secretary-General to take steps to follow up on the recommendations of his Board of Inquiry.
Another option for the Council would be to consider imposition of targeted sanctions against those identified as having failed to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement.
Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis but are divided on the importance of holding elections in 2017 as stipulated by the 31 December 2016 agreement. While some Council members emphasise the potentially dire consequences of elections being further delayed, others assert that timing is less important than ensuring that they are peaceful and inclusive. However, there is a consensus that the publication of a clear timetable for elections is vital and necessary to avoid further tensions and possible escalation of violence.
As for the next steps regarding the Board of Inquiry’s report, the US and Sweden see a need for the Secretary-General to launch an independent investigation into the incident without delay. Some Council members, such as Russia, emphasise that they support further investigations under the jurisdiction of the DRC, with the support of other member states, in accordance with the recommendations of the board. Several Council members take the view that further accountability measures will require the cooperation of the DRC in order to be effective.
Council members agree that there needs to be an in-depth review of the security procedures regarding the safety of members of the panels and groups of experts assisting the sanctions committees. At this point, however, they are unclear as to the role the Council is to play in this regard.
France is the penholder on the DRC.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2360||This renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.|
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2348||The Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2018.|
|15 August 2017 S/2017/712||This was a report on the implementation of the political agreement of 31 December 2016.|
|Security Council Letter|
|15 August 2017 S/2017/713||This was a letter from the Secretary-General containing the executive summary of the Board of Inquiry’s report on the murder of two members of the DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 August 2017 S/PV.8026||This was a briefing by the chair of the DRC Sanctions Committee on the Group of Experts’ final report.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|17 August 2017 SC/12959||This was a press release on the 4 August open briefing of the DRC Sanctions Committee.|
|8 August 2017 S/2017/672/Rev.1||This was the final report of the Group of Experts.|