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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Expected Council Action

During August the Council expects to receive the Secretary-General’s report on progress in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process and a transitional government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is also likely to receive the final report of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee on the Committee’s Group of Experts. The deadline for the Group of Experts report was extended by two months in resolution 2360 on 21 June in recognition of the circumstances under which the experts were operating, including the murder of two experts in the Kasai region in March.

The Council will continue to watch the situation in the DRC closely, particularly the violence in the Kasai region, and a briefing may be requested based 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

On 11 July, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Council on the lack of progress in implementing the 31 December 2016 agreement and the significant obstacles that now exist to an election being held in 2017 as stipulated by the agreement. Lacroix also briefed the Council on the unstable security situation across the DRC, including the violence in the Kasai region and an increase in attacks by Mayi-Mayi militia in North Kivu.

Lacroix’s briefing followed discussions by Council members on the DRC under “any other business” on 6 July. During this closed session, Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, briefed the Council on the current conflict in the Kasai region, as did Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The briefing reportedly included disturbing descriptions of violence in the Kasai region, with atrocities being committed by both government forces and local militia. Dieng, who visited the Kasai region in late June, described increasing ethnically motivated violence and the use of scorched-earth tactics, including the complete destruction of villages and the murder of civilian populations.

The DRC government has been increasingly open about its unwillingness to hold elections in 2017. President Joseph Kabila has made statements that suggest he does not believe elections must occur this year. On 9 July, the president of the DRC electoral commission, Corneille Nangaa, said that logistical constraints would prevent an election from occurring this year. Opposition leaders have accused the government of obstructing efforts to organise the election and of using, and perpetuating, the violence in Kasai as a reason to avoid an election.

Investigations are continuing into the murder in March of two members of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, and their interpreter, Betu Tshintela.

On 26 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement expressing concern over the political, security and human rights situation in the DRC.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In July, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) released its report on the human rights situation in the country between January and June 2017, noting an increase in the number of human rights violations committed since the beginning of 2016. UNJHRO said that most of the 42 mass graves in Kasai discovered during the period “would have been dug by [Congolese army] elements following clashes with alleged militiamen.”

In a statement on 26 July, the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced the appointment of Bacre Ndiaye (Senegal, chairperson), Luc Côté (Canada), and Fatimata M’Baye (Mauritania) as international experts to investigate human rights abuses in the Kasai region as mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 35/33.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is seeking to ensure that the 31 December 2016 agreement is implemented and that elections take place in 2017.  

Another important issue is how to address the continued violence in the east and the emerging violence in Kasai, which remain a serious threat to peace and security.

Establishing facts and enforcing accountability for the murder of the two 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee experts is another important issue for Council members.

Options

One option is for the Council to 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 free and fair elections;   
  • threatens the use of sanctions against those who act to impede a solution to the political crisis; and
  • condemns the mass violence in Kasai and elsewhere and calls for accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Another option is for the Council to establish clear consequences if elections are not held before the end of 2017. Such consequences could include targeted sanctions against those identified as having failed to implement the 31 December 2016 agreement. A resolution that includes benchmarks for implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement is one option for setting out potential consequences for spoilers.

Council Dynamics

Council members are troubled by the increase in the scale and severity of violence in the Kasai region. Members have expressed deep concern at the reported human rights abuses occurring in Kasai and fear that the violence there could spread into other parts of the DRC and to neighbouring states.

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. Some members emphasise the need for full implementation of the agreement to move the DRC beyond the current crisis and fear potentially explosive ramifications if elections are not held this year. During the briefing on 11 July, several Council members made strong statements emphasising the need for the government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections by the end of the year. The US proposed that the Council “consider targeted sanctions to reduce the violence in the [DRC] and help pressure all stakeholders to play a more constructive role in moving the country forward.” Some other members see all stakeholders as jointly responsible for carrying out the elections and believe their timing is less important than insuring that they are peaceful and inclusive.

France is the penholder on the DRC, and Egypt chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.

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.
Security Council Presidential Statement
26 July 2017 S/PRST/2017/12 This was on the political, security and human rights situation in the DRC.
Secretary-General's Report
30 June 2017 S/2017/565 This was on MONUSCO.
Security Council Meeting Record
11 July 2017 S/PV.7998 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on the situation in the DRC.

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