Ahead of Elections, Peacekeeping Mission Drawdown in Democratic Republic of Congo, Security Situation Still Dire, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Despite progress in preparations for its general elections, as well as in its financial governance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to face a deteriorating security situation amid ongoing violence by armed groups against civilians, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today ahead of ongoing plans for the mission’s withdrawal.
Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), noting the promulgation of the revised electoral law, commended the work of the Government, Parliament and the Independent National Electoral Commission to establish the legal framework and conditions for the proper conduct of the elections. The adoption of the 2023 budget of $14.6 billion will provide the Electoral Commission with the necessary means for the electoral process.
Highlighting the persisting security challenges in the eastern part of the country due to abuses perpetrated by various armed groups, she called for the strengthening of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). “An estimated 27 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance,” she said, adding that the surge in internal displacement since January 2022 has brought the total number of displaced people to 5.5 million — the largest caseload in Africa. She called on Congolese authorities to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and safe delivery of assistance.
Regional initiatives are under way to support stabilization in the east and the easing of regional tensions fueled by the M23’s resurgence, she pointed out. The operational means and other resources necessary must be mobilized to ensure that the provincial authorities have the capacities required to implement the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme. The Mission is continuing to discharge its mandate so that its withdrawal from the three last provinces where it remains can occur in a calm, responsible and sustainable manner, she affirmed.
Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Council on the Committee’s work since 5 October 2021. Together with Committee members, he will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda to obtain first-hand accounts concerning the implementation of the sanctions measures imposed by resolution 2360 (2017), he said. The notification requirements for the delivery of materiel to Congolese forces — except for five categories of weapons listed in an annex to resolution 2641 (2022) — were abolished with the adoption of that resolution on 30 June.
Emery Mudinga, Director of the Angaza Institute, pointed out that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest amount of tropical forest in the Congo Basin. However, many armed groups operating in the forests of the eastern part of the country are involved in various illegal exploitation activities, causing the forest to shrink by 1 million hectares each year, posing consequences for food security and agricultural production. Citing possible measures to address the problem, he said the Council could finance projects and road infrastructure in forested areas to facilitate the monitoring of illicit activity and adopt sanctions to end the purchase and sale of wood by rebel groups and the Government.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates urged support for regional cooperation initiatives and offered ways to remedy the security situation. Speakers also stressed the need to protect civilians while underscoring that MONUSCO’s withdrawal is contingent on the achievement of benchmarks set forth in the transition plan.
Kenya’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, stressed that MONUSCO must prioritize the protection of civilians and improve troop preparedness through capacity-building and training. Voicing concern over the strained relations and hostilities between MONUSCO and the local populations, he urged greater effort to rebuild trust and confidence between them. He backed the Congolese Government’s call for MONUSCO to review the joint transition plan and ensure the benchmarks encompass, among others, strengthening key defense and security institutions.
The delegate for the United States, pointing out that the 23 March Movement remains designated under the 1533 sanctions regime, said Member States are obligated to freeze the armed group’s assets and ensure that no funds or economic resources are made available to it. Noting the tragic deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and civilians in recent months, he said it is vital to speak out against anti-United Nations rhetoric, which undermines the ability of peacekeepers to carry out their mandates.
In the same vein, the speaker for Mexico condemned the disinformation campaigns that led to violent protests against MONUSCO and the killing of peacekeeping personnel and civilians. He stressed the need to prevent the illicit flow of weapons to strip illicit armed groups of their capacity to destabilize the country.
Burundi’s representative expressed support for regional approaches, particularly the Nairobi process, which aim to bring peace between the armed forces and Government on one hand and between the warring local communities on the other. His country, as a rotating Chair of the East African Community, will do everything in its power to actively participate in all United Nations and African initiatives aimed at restoring peace and international security.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo called for the withdrawal of occupying forces from the east, particularly the M23 supported by Rwanda. On the Nairobi process, he said that while the political track is under way, with respect to the incorporation of rebel groups into the Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme, the comprehensive operationalization of that process requires funding. On the military track, there is a need to tackle defiant negative elements such as the M23, the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO) in Ituri and the Mai-Mai in South Kivu, he said, calling on the countries of origin of those negative elements to implement the process to reabsorb those fighters.
Further, the plan for MONUSCO’s drawdown must be reevaluated, he said, stressing the need to protect civilians, and for sufficient means to purchase equipment. He called on the Council to support, among others, the inviolability of his country’s borders, the immediate withdrawal of forces from Bunagana, and the stepping up of sanctions against groups exploiting his country’s natural resources.
Rwanda’s representative pointed out that some Congolese leaders’ tendency to scapegoat Rwanda for political attention only serves to deepen anti-Rwandan sentiment. If this hate speech continues, it will exacerbate the problems in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and further divide the country by deepening hatred and mistrust among Congolese communities. Blaming others for that country’s internal failures is problematic, he said, calling on the Government to accept its obligations and implement existing, signed peace agreements.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Mexico, India, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Brazil, Russian Federation, China and France.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:03 p.m.
BINTOU KEITA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), highlighted significant progress since her June briefing in the preparations for the general elections to be held in the country by December 2023. The promulgation of the revised electoral law on 29 June; the development of its implementation measures by the Independent National Electoral Commission; the implementation of topical consultation frameworks with women, youth, political parties and civil society; and the preparations for the launch of a voter registration drive in December are important steps. She commended the efforts of the Government, parliament and the Electoral Commission to establish the legal framework and conditions for the proper conduct of the elections. However, significant challenges remain, particularly in reaching a broad consensus on the various aspects of the electoral process, she said, affirming MONUSCO’s willingness to facilitate dialogue and ensure a transparent, inclusive and peaceful process.
The regular parliamentary session that opened on 15 September, on the 2023 budget, provides an opportunity to address the socioeconomic challenges facing the country, she said. The proposed 2023 budget of $14.6 billion submitted to the National Assembly — 32 per cent more than 2022 — marks significant progress in financial governance. Its adoption should make it possible to expedite implementation of the development programme for the 145 territories and to give the Electoral Commission the necessary means for the electoral process. The Parliament must also consider the 2022-2025 military programming law, estimated at $1 billion per year — crucial to allow the increase of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and to implement security sector reform. Noting the persisting security challenges in the eastern part of the country, she called for the empowerment of the FARDC, as armed groups continue to commit violence against civilians. Most abuses are being perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces, the Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO) and the 23 March Movement (M23) in Ituri and North Kivu, while Mai-Mai groups and other militias have intensified attacks on civilians in South Kivu, she added.
“An estimated 27 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, with many having protection needs,” she said, noting that the surge in internal displacement since January has brought the total number of displaced people to 5.5 million — the largest caseload in Africa. Also, in July attacks against aid workers reached their highest level since the beginning of the year, with 34 security incidents recorded, she said, calling on the Congolese authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and installations and to provide security for the delivery of life-saving assistance. So far, the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for the country has received 37 per cent of the $1.88 billion required, she said, urging donors to continue their support. MONUSCO remains fully mobilized to address the persistent insecurity created by the criminal activities of armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Describing its various efforts in that regard, she said the Mission is working with the FARDC to conduct joint offensive operations in areas affected by CODECO, in compliance with the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
Regional initiatives are also under way to support stabilization in the east and the easing of regional tensions fuelled by M23’s resurgence, without which no lasting peace is possible, she said. These initiatives and the deployment of troops from East African Community countries must go hand in hand with non-military measures. Noting victims of violence perpetrated by armed groups have high expectations of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme, she stressed: “We must mobilize the operational means and other resources necessary to ensure that the provincial authorities have the capacities required to implement this programme.” She encouraged financial partners to support in the coming months implementation of the provincial operational plans being drawn up in order to swiftly seize existing disarmament opportunities in Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika. The programme must contribute to reconciliation through close coordination with the transitional justice process, she said, commending Government progress in this regard, notably through the launch of national popular consultations in six provinces by the Ministry for Human Rights, as well as President Felix Tshisekedi’s statement against tribalism and hate speech to the General Assembly. She encouraged the country to continue its efforts and strengthen its legal arsenal to fight against these abuses, particularly through the adoption of the bill tabled in Parliament against tribalism, racism and xenophobia.
She went on to say that the deteriorating security situation in the east of the country has provided fertile ground for manipulation and stigmatization of MONUSCO, leading to new violent demonstrations and serious incidents resulting in the death of some dozen protestors and four MONUSCO personnel. She commended the efforts of Congolese authorities, civil society and influential personalities calling for calm and restraint in an extremely difficult security context and urged them to continue in that regard to enable MONUSCO to fully resume its operations in the east of the country without hindrance. Following these incidents, President Tshisekedi has instructed his Government to re-evaluate the transition plan in order to expedite the pace of MONUSCO’s withdrawal, she said, adding that the Mission is fully prepared to work closely with the Government in that regard. “We remain mobilized to continue to discharge the mandate that the Council has entrusted to us,” she stressed, adding that it is doing so in close cooperation with the Government, agencies, funds and programmes and the other regional and international partners, “in order to ensure that the withdrawal once and for all of the Mission from those three last provinces where it remains, can occur in a calm, responsible and sustainable manner.”
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then briefed the Council on the Committee’s work since 5 October 2021. In that period, the Committee held five in-person meetings and met via video teleconference on four occasions. On 14 January, it heard a presentation from the Coordinator of the Group of Experts outlining its workplan for the mandate that ended on 1 August 2022. On 15 March, the Committee was briefed by Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, Minister for Mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the illicit exploitation of mineral resources. On 13 May, the Committee heard a presentation by the Coordinator of the Group of Experts regarding its final report, subsequently discussing the findings and recommendations contained therein.
He also reported that, on 1 July, the Committee was briefed by Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, on the situation of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 15 July, the Coordinator of the Group of Experts provided an overview of its final report to regional and other interested States and, on 15 September, the Coordinator presented the Group’s workplan for its current mandate to the Committee. He also noted that the Committee held three “informal informals” via video teleconference on 17 February, 11 April and 27 June with Richard Roy, former senior official of the mechanism assisting the Government in its investigations into the 2017 murders of two former members of the Group of Experts. The Committee also issued three press releases containing a brief summary of the informal consultations held on 13 May, 15 July and 27 September.
He went on to state that he will lead a delegation of Committee members in a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda on 7-18 November 2022. This visit aims to obtain first-hand accounts concerning the implementation of the sanctioning measures imposed by resolution 2360 (2017), as reaffirmed by resolution 2641 (2022). It will also provide an opportunity to hold consultations with the Governments of those States, MONUSCO and representatives of civil society and the business community working on issues relevant to the Committee’s mandate. He further noted that the notification requirements for the delivery of materiel to Congolese forces – except for five categories of weapons listed in an annex to resolution 2641 (2022) – were abolished with the adoption of that resolution on 30 June. He added that, during his upcoming visit, he will receive the views of various actors regarding possible sanctions designations for additional individuals and entities whose acts may be subject to the same.
EMERY MUDINGA, Director of the Angaza Institute, pointed out that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest amount of tropical forest in the Congo Basin. However, recent studies estimate that such forested area is decreasing by 1 million hectares each year, which will destroy it by the end of the century if nothing is done. This will have consequences for food security and agricultural production, as well as for the global economy and the climate. Providing an overview of the primary threats to the Congolese forest, he pointed out that the same has turned into a “hidden headquarters” for hundreds of armed groups. Many are operating in the forests of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they are involved in various illegal exploitation activities. Further, their presence has led to the destruction of biodiversity and millions of lost tourism dollars. He also spotlighted multinational corporations taking land – sometimes with State blessing – and the irresponsible behaviour of some Congolese authorities who give logging permits to some companies.
Against that backdrop, he presented several suggested actions that the Council could take to respond to this problem. For example, the Council could act to enable the Democratic Republic of the Congo to field an army that can neutralize armed groups. It could also adopt sanctions against all Member States with proxy armed groups operating in the country. Further, it could finance projects and road infrastructure in forested areas to facilitate the monitoring of illicit activity and adopt sanctions to end the purchase and sale of wood by rebel groups and the Government. Financial and technical support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s forest policy and development projects would also be welcome, including by defining a specific policy to bring peace to forested areas. He added that, when renewing MONUSCO’s mandate, the Council could integrate into the same issues pertaining to climate change.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, welcomed President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitment to enhance trust between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring countries through continued consultation to finalize regional security cooperation and economic partnership agreements, and Nairobi’s commitment to hold elections in 2023, in accordance with the Constitution. He commended the Independent National Electoral Commission’s comprehensive approach to planning and managing the electoral process and welcomed the electoral law revisions to ensure greater participation of all Congolese. Turning to the security situation, he expressed grave concern over the continuous activities of armed and terrorist affiliated groups, especially in the eastern part of the country, which disproportionally affect civilians, especially women and children. He, thus, reiterated the need for concerted effort to bring an end to these groups, and demanded the armed groups surrender their arms and engage with the Government under the Inter-Congolese Dialogue process.
He also expressed concern over the strained relations and hostilities between MONUSCO and the local populations. “Every effort must be made to rebuild trust and confidence between the mission and the host communities,” he added, beginning with MONUSCO prioritizing the protection of civilian; improved troop preparedness through capacity-building and training; and investing in base defenses and other force multipliers. Welcoming the 31 August communiqué adopted by the African Union Peace and Security Council endorsing the Nairobi and Luanda processes, he urged Member States to enhance support for these mechanisms and processes. Concerned that some priority benchmarks in the MONUSCO drawdown plan do not provide for its successful drawdown and exit, he backed the Congolese Government’s call for MONUSCO to review the joint transition plan and ensure that the benchmarks encompass, among others, strengthening key defense and security institutions as well as early warning initiatives and preventive interventions that mitigate relapse into conflict. Turning to the humanitarian crisis, he underscored the need to shift from short-term to long-term resilience-based humanitarian assistance.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland) expressed deep concern over the ongoing insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and undermined aid organizations’ ability to deliver assistance to 27 million people. Noting the high rates of human rights violations, conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence perpetrated by armed groups and State actors, he condemned these acts and called for accountability. As his country awaits the outcome of the joint investigation into the Kasindi border incident, he expressed continued support for the role of MONUSCO in protecting civilians, and urged increased communication with communities and partners. Turning to the tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, he welcomed the recent meetings between Presidents Tshisekedi Tshilombo and Kagame. Ireland urges the full inclusion of civil society, space for women’s full participation in efforts towards peace and constructive engagement with the ongoing Nairobi process. The East African Community regional force must progress in tandem with the political track, have clear objectives, cooperate and coordinate closely with MONUSCO and other actors, and comply fully with human rights standards and accountabilities. As disarmament, demobilization and reintegration are fundamental to lasting peace, he welcomed the support of the Multi-donor Stabilization Coherence Fund. Effective transitions are also key to sustaining peace. Recalling Ireland’s high-level event on implementing Council resolution 2594 (2021), he reiterated the need for inclusive, integrated transition planning. He also welcomed President Tshisekedi Tshilombo’s commitment to holding elections in 2023.
MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed concern over the recurrent and recently intensified resurgence of attacks by armed groups including the 23 March Movement (M23) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), as well as the rising tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, calling on the countries to pursue a diplomatic solution. She welcomed efforts taken to address such security challenges, including the initiative by Angola’s President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership of the Nairobi process, and echoed the Secretary-General’s call for close coordination between various actors, such as MONUSCO and the East African Regional Force once it deploys. Norway is deeply troubled by the deaths of United Nations personnel, which has contributed to protecting civilians under very challenging circumstances, during the recent violent protests against MONUSCO in North Kivu and the incident at the Kasindi border post in the country’s east that led to civilian casualties. The United Nations must establish the facts and ensure that those responsible are held accountable. On joint transition plan and the timeline for the drawdown, which are increasingly being questioned throughout the country, she said the transition must take into account the situation on the ground, in a gradual, responsible and sustainable way, and in line with the withdrawal plan. Calling for strengthening of the rule of law and security sector capacity, she underscored the importance of the upcoming December elections, for which Norway is providing financial support through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) stressed that without sufficient capabilities, MONUSCO will continue struggling to protect civilians from armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, calling on those armed groups to discontinue their assaults on the country’s most vulnerable populations. As M23 remains designated under the 1533 sanctions regime, Member States are required to freeze the armed group’s assets and ensure that no funds or economic resources are made available to it, he said. The East African community leaders and the Democratic Republic of the Congo officials must ensure that regional force does not disrupt the life-saving work of the country’s armed forces, MONUSCO and United Nations humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations. On safeguarding mission personnel and operations, he stressed: “Speaking out against anti-United Nations rhetoric, which has tragically led directly to the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and civilians in recent months is critical in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in all contexts where mis– and disinformation are undermining the ability of peacekeepers to carry out the mandates that the Council has given to them.” He urged the Government and Tanzanian authorities, in coordination with the United Nations, to complete a thorough investigation and hold perpetrators fully accountable. On the mission transition, he stressed that MONUSCO and the Democratic Republic of the Congo need the Council’s complete, unequivocal support.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) expressed concern over the security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that the redeployment of resources to tackle M23 has undermined the protection of civilians and created a vacuum that armed groups have exploited. For its part, the United Kingdom has provided over 2.5 million people with humanitarian assistance since 2017, and he urged all actors to address the humanitarian impacts of this violence. He went on to condemn violent protests against MONUSCO — which undermine its ability to implement its mandate, including civilian protection — and called on the Mission and the Government to engage in a structured dialogue to clarify roles and responsibilities for a conditions-based drawdown of MONUSCO. A military solution alone cannot bring peace, however, and a credible, legitimate political process must be the foundation of any lasting settlement. To this end, diplomatic efforts and dialogue through existing regional processes should continue. He also called on MONUSCO to continue supporting the Government’s demobilization, disarmament, community recovery and stabilization programme. On the climate front, he added that his country has committed £200 million to the Congo Basin pledge and will chair the Central African Forest Initiative in 2023.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and underscored the need to stymie the illicit flow of weapons to strip illicit armed groups of their capacity to destabilize the country. Strongly condemning violent activities targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the recruitment of children by M23, CODECO and other armed groups, he said such violence further amplifies the number of internally displaced persons, which already number 5.5 million. All parties must guarantee that humanitarian actors can operate unhindered, as this is key to bringing about better governance and addressing the conflict’s structural causes. Expressing concern over the uptick in tensions between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, which impacts the region, he called for dialogue to resolve differences and welcomed the recent efforts of the President of France, as well as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to address tensions and to help adhere to the road map laid out in the Luanda summit. He appealed for the deployment of the regional force under the Nairobi process to take place in coordination with MONUSCO and condemned the disinformation campaigns producing violent protests against MONUSCO, leading to the killing of peacekeeping personnel and civilians. Light must be shed on who is responsible for the attacks to ensure justice is done. Moreover, haste must be avoided in adjustments to the mandate of MONUSCO and its handover, in order to prioritize the protection of civilians and avoid exacerbating worrying trends in security and regional dynamics, he said, adding that national authorities must cooperate to ensure the protection of personnel.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said that as one of the largest troop contributors to MONUSCO, his country is deeply concerned about the recent turn of events. The increasing activities of M23 and other armed groups, such as Allied Democratic Forces, CODECO, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai-Mai, call into question the overall approach to conflict resolution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, stressing that a political solution, not a military one, is key. The calls for a robust mandate for MONUSCO have fed into the ongoing disinformation campaign against the United Nations peacekeepers. Strongly condemning attacks against peacekeepers and expressing hope that the Congolese Government will bring perpetrators to justice, he commended the deployment of the East African Community joint regional force and underscored the importance of proactive and purposeful regional initiatives focused on development, demobilization of armed groups and mediation efforts to end hostilities. The success of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Reintegration and Stabilization Programme is crucial for the broader political process underway. He went on to welcome progress made towards laying the ground for the upcoming elections in 2023, expressing hope that political actors will work towards building consensus and increasing the meaningful participation of Congolese women in the country’s political and peace processes. Noting that the closure of MONUSCO field offices in Tanganyika in June “went as planned”, he emphasized that the transition and eventual exit of the mission must be gradual, responsible and orderly.
AMEIRAH ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), echoing the repeated calls of the East African Community, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and other regional actors, stressed the need for de-escalation and the cessation of hostilities and violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The activities of armed groups, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources, as well as intercommunal tensions, strain the capabilities of national forces and MONUSCO, undermine security and prevent sustainable peace. “It is regrettable that, in every meeting we hold on this matter, we must extend our condolences to the families of victims of new attacks in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she noted. Spotlighting the alarming escalation in violence against women and girls, she reiterated the need to ensure that such crimes continue to be reported, that perpetrators are held accountable and that women and girls are provided with adequate protection and support. As establishing security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo requires political dialogue at the national and regional levels, she recognized the role of the Luanda road map and Nairobi process in creating space for regional leaders to coordinate efforts and strengthen cooperation. The Council, she continued, plays an important role by sustaining support for confidence-building measures among regional actors. The preservation of gains requires constructive engagement by all stakeholders in the gradual drawdown and eventual withdrawal of MONUSCO. She further noted the impact of the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the new academic year, and called for the alleviation of suffering for displaced people, education access for children and protection from attacks for humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) welcomed the ongoing progress in preparing the groundwork for holding elections in 2023, calling on all parties to work together to foster conditions to make them inclusive, free, transparent and acceptable to all parties. While welcoming the commitment of national and regional actors to defuse tensions, she noted that the security situation on the ground remains of great concern. Given the complex situation, harmonious implementation of the proposed coordination mechanism between the Luanda Roadmap and the Nairobi process is key. Moreover, the obligations of the East African Regional Force should be implemented in full coordination and cooperation with MONUSCO, to ensure protection of civilians and maintain humanitarian access. She welcomed the meeting between the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to ensure the withdrawal of M23 from all occupied territories and the return of war-displaced persons. She went on to express alarm about the plight of civilians, noting the continued dire number of victims of extrajudicial and summary killings, the grave violations and recruitment of children or cases of conflict-related sexual violence despite the decrease in documented abuses and violations in Ituri and North Kivu. She called on armed groups to lay down their weapons unconditionally and for the return of foreign armed groups to their country of origin. The proposed review of MONUSCO’s withdrawal plan must be conducted in a way that will guarantee minimum-security conditions for the Mission’s staff, and a conditions-based exit from provinces where it operates.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), noting that the overall security and humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains dire with 1.29 million people newly displaced since January and almost 27 million people needing assistance and protection, said the 2022 humanitarian response plan has only received a fraction of the required amount. Pointing to the revised electoral law and announcement of the voter registration period by the Independent National Electoral Commission as “important steps” in implementing the electoral calendar, he welcomed the commitments of the Congolese Government, Parliament and Electoral Commission to hold elections in 2023 and emphasized that concerns of the opposition and civil society must be taken into account. The adoption of the concept of operations for the new East African Community Regional Force and its status–of–forces agreement earlier this month shows how determined the region’s countries are to address the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, also welcoming the recent arrival of Burundian and Kenyan troops. While underlining support for peaceful protest, he condemned violence and intimidation, including against United Nations personnel, calling for those responsible to be held accountable and voicing concern about reports that some Congolese authorities may have encouraged protests against MONUSCO. MONUSCO’s strategic communication capabilities must be enhanced in the face of disinformation campaigns to ensure the Mission can implement its mandate. The current state of domestic politics and renewed regional efforts bode well for implementing MONUSCO’s transition plan, he concluded.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), said that despite a “degree of calm” and absence of large-scale hostilities between the M23 and Government forces, numerous illegal armed formations are fighting among themselves for natural resources and using the revenue from their illegal exploitation to finance illicit activities of armed groups in the east of the country. She strongly condemned the deadly attacks on MONUSCO facilities in the North Kivu province in July. Stressing the need to deal with these issues through non-violence, she called for significantly more coordination and exchange of information between MONUSCO and official Congolese structures. Consistent responsible action is needed to implement the joint transition plan and to gradually reduce MONUSCO’s size by 2024, taking into consideration the evolving situation on the ground. She underscored the “top priority” of resolving the situation by political means, including through constructive cooperation among regional players, commending the launching of new conflict resolution mechanisms in the Great Lakes region. In this vein, she commended the peacekeeping efforts of Angola’s President and underscored that the Russian Federation is monitoring the Nairobi process. She welcomed the important decisions by regional States, including the establishment of a joint regional force during consultations in Nairobi, and emphasized the importance of their implementation with the support of the international community and in direct coordination with MONUSCO and by the leading role played by Kinshasa.
Dai Bing (China), stressing that restoring stability is the top priority, urged all armed groups to respond immediately to the Nairobi process, cease violence and participate unconditionally in political dialogue, reconciliation, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. China welcomed the recent electoral law and voter registration progress and called on all parties to create a favourable atmosphere for general elections. He called for continued support in resolving “African issues in African ways”. The international community must support the Nairobi and Luanda processes and regional countries to resolve differences. Central to these efforts is the effective performance of MONUSCO, he said, and urged the Mission to continue communication with all to enhance mutual understanding and trust. In line with its presidential statement in August on capacity-building for peace in Africa, the Security Council should streamline and optimize MONUSCO’s tasks, curb mandates beyond its abilities and devote resources to core tasks such as the protection of civilians and maintenance of security and stability. He urged a timely investigation of the recent deadly incident between peacekeepers and civilians. He then voiced support for strengthening MONUSCO’s coordination with authorities on its drawdown. MONUSCO must respect the concerns of host countries and implement a plan in a steady, orderly and responsible manner in accordance with the situation on the ground and exit benchmarks, he emphasized. Turning to the Government’s repeated requests to lift the arms embargo, he urged the Council to respond positively.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, said that at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda met last week in New York and agreed to work together to obtain the withdrawal of the M23 from the occupied areas as soon as possible. Also, commitments to bring an end to the actions of all armed groups in the region were taken. MONUSCO must regain its freedom of action to protect civilians, he stressed, pointing out that it is up to the Congolese authorities to ensure the security of the United Nations and to fight against misinformation. The status-of-forces agreement must be respected, and the Mission's freedom of movement restored. Ultimately, MONUSCO's gradual and responsible withdrawal will depend on the achievement of benchmarks established in the joint transition plan. Until then, MONUSCO must continue to implement its civilian protection mandate, he said, affirming France’s support in that regard. If requested by the national authorities, the European Union has the means to help the country prepare for those elections. In the meantime, efforts must continue to consolidate stability and development. This includes the response to the humanitarian emergency, the protection of human rights, and the fight against hate speech. The sustainable exploitation of natural resources and the fight against illicit trafficking thereof will be additional factors for peace.
GEORGES NZONGOLA-NTALAJA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), emphasizing that his country needs peace to forge on the path of development, called for the withdrawal of occupying forces from the east, particularly the M23 supported by Rwanda. “The Council has its own Group of Experts but it cannot stand by with eyes closed, and must clearly join us in asking the occupying forces to leave Bunagana without conditions or ruses,” he said. Turning to the report under consideration on the situation in his country, he expressed deep appreciation for the work of MONUSCO’s troops and the quick reaction force among others for their continued sacrifices in the name of peace. Turning to the Nairobi process, he noted that the political track is underway, with respect to the incorporation of rebel groups into the Demobilization, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilization Programme, however the comprehensive operationalization of this crucial process requires funding. On the military track, there is a need to tackle defiant negative elements such M23, CODECO in Ituri and the Mai-Mai in South Kivu, he said, adding: “No discussion is possible regarding foreign armed groups; they must lay down their arms and go home.” He called on the countries of origin of these negative elements to implement the process to reabsorb these fighters, stressing: “The DRC is not a drain.”
On the pursuit of joint operations between FARDC, MONUSCO, and the regional force, he assured the Council that his country’s forces will work in full harmony with MONUSCO, pointing to the joint command of the regional force and FARDC in the form of General Kaputu. Information sharing and coordination will be encouraged to avoid “friendly shots”, he added. Turning to the political situation, notably mediation initiatives and the upcoming electoral process, he stated that a revised electoral law was adopted on 29 June, and that an electoral calendar will shortly be published by the country’s independent national election commission. On mediation initiatives, while efforts in Kenya, Angola and by the French president are commendable, Bungana is still under attack. Addressing anti-MONUSCO sentiments, he said his country is working to calm the population; however, such efforts must not be undone by demoralizing rhetoric in parallel. There is a need to reevaluate the plan for MONUSCO’s drawdown, he went on, stressing the need to protect civilians, and for sufficient means to purchase equipment. In this regard, he called for the estimated 67 per cent funding gap to be plugged.
He went on to call on the Council to support the inviolability of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s borders, and the immediate withdrawal of forces from Bunagana; to examine in a clear-sighted fashion the statements made on the United Nations rostrum by the Group of Experts on the attack on his country; to condemn the criminal attacks of M23 and all those who support it; to lend support for the Nairobi process; to ensure all forces lay down arms and support the demobilization, disarmament, community recovery and stabilization process; for sanctions to be stepped up against groups exploiting his country’s natural resources, including multinationals profiting from such exploitation; and for the total – not partial - lifting of prior notification clause with respect to sanctions, which is not useful and does not allow his country to defend itself.
CLAVER GATETE (Rwanda) noted that the East African Community’s regional force is being deployed to implement the Nairobi process, which provides solid ground for ending the presence of armed groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, he underscored that FDLR and its splinter groups continue to pose a serious threat to Rwanda, and that concerns arise when such groups receive support from, and operate alongside, the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such treatment allows these negative forces to organize, recruit and conduct cross-border incursions into Rwandan territory, and the armed forces must stop forging alliances with sanctioned groups.
Recalling “entirely preventable” attacks by the FDLR, he stressed that the same and its splinter groups present a credible threat to Rwandan security and that “assertions to the contrary are disingenuous”. Further, some Congolese leaders’ tendency to scapegoat Rwanda for political attention only serves to deepen anti-Rwandan sentiment. If this hate speech continues, it will exacerbate the problems in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and further divide the country by deepening hatred and mistrust among Congolese communities. Adding that blaming others for that country’s internal failures is problematic, he called on the Government to accept its obligations and implement existing, signed peace agreements.
ZÉPHYRIN MANIRATANGA (Burundi) said his country welcomed with “dignity and warmth” thousands of refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and joined efforts with the East African Community aiming to stabilize that region within the framework of the Nairobi process by deploying a contingent of the national defence force to the area. Noting recurrent security problems, he expressed support for regional approaches, particularly the Nairobi process, which aimed to remedy the security situation and to bring peace between the armed forces and Government on one hand, and between the warring local communities on the other. Encouraged by the determination of some regional leaders to step up political and military efforts to bring about peace and lasting stability, he called for the United Nations multidimensional support for the Nairobi process. He expressed assurance that Burundi, as a rotating chair of the East African Community, will do everything in its power to actively participate in all United Nations and African initiatives aimed at restoring peace and international security. He underscored that a solution not only lays in neutralizing the armed forces, but also in developing an approach designed to reconcile local communities and install a culture of peace. For that purpose, Burundi is now preparing to draw on its experience, tools and means to ensure peaceful coexistence of all communities living in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.