The mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) had not yet been fulfilled, Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the Mission told the Security Council today, stressing that “we have a duty and responsibility to ensure that the Congo is secure and stable, and that the progress that has been attained thus far will be irreversible.”
Said Djinnit, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, also addressing the 15-member body, emphasized that the presence of armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and violence against civilians were some of the greatest challenges to the region. Those negative elements must be neutralized, as it was a regional imperative to achieve peace and eliminate distrust.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the Mission (document S/2015/741), Mr. Kobler said the political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was increasingly marked by the electoral process, with political tensions running high. Peaceful, timely and credible elections in November 2016 would send a clear message that the nation was keen on a peaceful transition of power and consolidation of peace.
In that regard, he voiced concern about the increasing number of human rights violations, particularly violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly. He appealed to the authorities to decisively address questions related to the sequencing of the electoral calendar, the electoral budget, and the update of the voter registry. Since the beginning of the year, 2,200 human rights violations affecting 5,400 victims had taken place, half of them committed by State agents, and there had been little progress in bringing senior perpetrators to justice.
As for the situation in the east, he said, refugees were gradually returning home in some parts, but the population remained wary of a fragile peace. He had no doubt, however, that MONUSCO’s presence and its early-warning mechanisms protected the most vulnerable populations. The 23 March Movement (M23) had been defeated militarily, but ex-combatants still sojourned in camps in Rwanda and Uganda. The group was far from being defeated. All efforts of reintegration on the basis of the Nairobi declaration had not succeeded. “This is a time bomb that must be urgently defused”, he said.
The existence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) remained one of the most important hindrances to peace in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, he went on to say. Welcoming the criminal convictions and long prison terms against two FDLR leaders by a German court he said there were still 1,100 FDLR elements continuing to carry out murder, rape and mutilations.
That reign of terror must end, he continued, adding that the only efficient solutions to address the security situation were joint MONUSCO-Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) operations. However, Mr. Kobler noted that President Kabila had not given the green light for such operations, and he once again called on the President to instruct the FARDC to resume cooperation.
Although MONUSCO had to gradually withdraw and exit from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he warned that such exit should not be undertaken hastily. An assessment of the Strategic Dialogue between the United Nations and the Government pointed out that the security situation had not improved or had even deteriorated in 21 territories out of 28 territories affected by armed conflicts. He supported a process based on resolution 2211 (2015) that would set in motion MUNUSCO’s exit strategy.
He said sexual exploitation and abuse cases had not only tarnished the Mission’s reputation but had also added to the suffering and burden of the most vulnerable populations. Together with the Force Commander and the Police Commissioner he had sensitized thousands of civilian and military peacekeepers. Prevention and accountability should become engrained in the Mission’s modus operandi.
He said the implementation of the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement needed to be invigorated as key reforms in the security sector, police, judicial and corrections sectors were essential for the long-term stability of the country. Lack of good governance was one of the root causes of the conflict. He also mentioned his deep concern on the degradation of the environment and the deforestation of the Congolese rainforest. The country’s unique natural heritage must be preserved for future generation in Africa and the world.
In closing his last briefing to the Council he said the 2.8 million people who remained internally displaced and the tens of thousands who still lived at the mercy of armed groups were a reminder that thousands of people were still depending on the United Nations.
Presenting the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement (document S/2015/735), Mr. Djinnit underscored that some of the greatest challenges to the region were the presence of armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and violence against civilians, particularly women. Those negative elements must be neutralized, as it was a regional imperative to achieve peace and eliminate distrust.
He said the Government’s actions against armed groups — especially FDLR — should be supported by the MONUSCO intervention brigade, in line with relevant Council decisions, and that joint operations with the Congolese armed forces should be restarted in the east. Those actions should be accompanied by an accelerated repatriation of FDLR ex-combatants in transit camps; during his visit to the Bahuma camp in Kisangani, he had encouraged those former combatants to accept repatriation to Rwanda. The Mutobo camp also appeared ready to receive them.
As for ex-M23 combatants, he said many of them were in Uganda and Rwanda, and that both his Office and MONUSCO were working with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Congolese Government to facilitate their repatriation and implement the Nairobi Declaration. “It is urgent that these former M23 combatants be repatriated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that provisions of the Nairobi Declarations implemented in good faith”, he stressed.
In that context, he welcomed the September decision by defence ministers to speed the repatriation of former M23 fighters held in camps in Rwanda, and ex-FDLR fighters camped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “This meeting is an important step in relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda”, he said, urging States in the region to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and cooperate in the fight against impunity.
Turning to the electoral processes, he cautioned against the risk for a political crisis, as had been seen in Burundi, by calling on all parties to engage in an inclusive dialogue led by the Economic Community of East African States. All stakeholders should show restraint. More broadly, he supported an integrated regional approach to better manage refugees and internally displaced persons, recalling women’s crucial role in transforming the region and promoting the objectives of the Framework Agreement.
On the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement, he said his Office, in cooperation with the African Union, had proposed reforms to the regional oversight mechanism, aiming to strengthen ownership by the signatories. While the 2013 accord had helped to stabilize the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the momentum sparked by resolution 2098 (2013) was fading, over problems in neutralizing FDLR and weak implementation of the Nairobi Declaration. Electoral challenges also might have diverted attention from the framework process.
Ignace Gata Mavita (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the recruitment of children as soldiers had been outlawed since 2001, through a “biometric census” of the army and strict implementation of the law. With 46,000 child soldiers identified and returned to civilian life, there were no more children in the Congolese armed forces. His Government was determined to neutralize all armed groups that recruited children. In addition, the President had mandated zero tolerance for sexual violence and established courts that travelled throughout the country to render justice. In 2014, 135 judicial decisions had been handed down for senior army officers.
He said the Congolese armed forces had carried out forced disarmament of FDLR. Between May 2014 and 20 January 2015, 438 FDLR members had surrendered; between 28 January and 31 July 2015, 415 had been neutralized. The Council must help facilitate repatriation to Rwanda or relocation to a third country in the region. As for ex-M23 combatants, 786 members had been welcomed by Rwanda and about 1,600 by Uganda. Weak progress on the Nairobi Declaration was due to bad faith by the M23, whose representative appointed to the national mechanism for supervising the Framework had never relocated to Kinshasa to occupy his office. All invitations to him remain unanswered. Meetings in Goma and Kinshasa in 2014 had been boycotted.
The national follow-up mechanism had established a road map to assess progress on Nairobi commitments. At various meetings, stakeholders condemned the absence of the M23, whose leadership in Kampala continued to urge ex-combatants to refuse repatriation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact, his country was the only party that had implemented the Declaration. It was important for all other stakeholders, especially those sheltering ex-M23 combatants, to help find lasting political solutions. Sanctions should be applied.
Regarding military developments, he said three rapid reaction brigades were in place, police had been deployed, and courts and tribunals were functioning well. Internally displaced persons and refugees had started to return home. The army was present throughout the country to protect the population. On the political front, the electoral calendar had been published by the Electoral Commission. Since May, the President had stepped up contact with civil society, religious and customary authorities in a national dialogue that sought consensus on the electoral process.
More broadly, he said negotiations on the strategic dialogue with the United Nations were deadlocked, expressing hope that they would eventually conclude with an action plan and withdrawal strategy for MONUSCO. For its part, his Government was committed to negotiations in a spirit of mutual trust. The United Nations presence must be reconsidered and MONUSCO personnel progressively be reviewed.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.