Foreign Minister Details Progress on Electoral Process, Repatriating Former Rebel Fighters, MONUSCO Drawdown, among Other State Priorities
Amid rising political tensions associated with the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the increasing number of security incidents and human rights violations, it was crucial to send a strong message about the need for political consensus on a sustainable way forward, the Security Council heard today during its periodic briefing on the situation in that country.
“Credible and meaningful political dialogue is needed to overcome the impasse in the electoral process,” said Maman Sambo Sidikou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO (document S/2016/233), he expressed support for the renewed partnership between the Mission and the country’s Government, aimed at addressing security threats more effectively.
Delivering the briefing, he said that, as laid out in the Secretary-General’s report, the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remained highly complex, in particular in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. The situation in southern Lubero and north-eastern Walikale territories, where fighting between newly-emerged Mayi Mayi groups and units of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) had resulted in the mass displacement of civilians and heightened tensions among local communities.
He went on to say that the spate of kidnappings in areas formerly occupied by the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) indicated the absence of an effective State presence in conflict-affected areas. Inter-ethnic tensions in Ituri Province, fuelled by conflicts over land, large-scale displacements from North Kivu Province and other population movements, had raised the possibility of violence. With the reported recent return of former M23 combatants to Masisi territory and elsewhere in the Kivus, there was an urgent need to implement the Nairobi Declaration, he emphasized, noting that the fragile situation in parts of South Kivu Province was also concerning. The arrest of several Congolese and Burundians there on charges relating to arms caches and participation in an insurrectional movement, as well as the remobilization of an ethnic militia in the High Plateaux, were signs that the crisis in Burundi could destabilize that province.
Highlighting the importance of the renewed partnership between the Government and MONUSCO, he said that since his arrival in the country, he had intensified his engagement with President Joseph Kabila Kabange, who had indicated his readiness to enhance cooperation with the Mission and to re-engage in discussions on the joint development of its exit strategy. Indeed, President Kabila’s commitment to renewed coordination of military operations had resulted in a technical agreement between the Government and the Mission in January, and the resumption of greater cooperation in the planning of operations.
Military cooperation offered a clear opportunity to significantly increase military pressure on priority armed groups and to more effectively protect civilians, he continued. In the past year, the rate of surrenders had been rising, a trend that could continue in the coming period with renewed and increased coordination of military operations. A key priority for the coming year was to link those efforts with a viable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. He said that, as the Council finalized MONUSCO’s new mandate, he was optimistic that the United Nations could capitalize on its enhanced cooperation with the Government to make progress against the priority armed groups. Neutralizing them went beyond military operations, requiring enhanced efforts to extend State authority and find durable solutions for former combatants, he stressed.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s proposal to reduce an additional 1,700 of MONUSCO’s military personnel, he said the recommendation took into account the Mission’s transformation plans and measures to address inefficiencies. Based on projected capability and efficiency gains from the transformation, further reduction of the military component might be envisaged without compromising MONUSCO’s ability to implement its mandate. Military pressure would only lead to sustainable outcomes if there was an effective, well-planned and nationally-led disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process that would ensure that ex-combatants were processed back into their communities, he concluded.
Following that briefing, Raymond Tshibanda N'tungamulongo, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, elaborated on current events surrounding the election process, security, the MONUSCO drawdown and the situation in the east, saying the Government was taking a number of steps in those areas. It was organizing free and transparent elections and engaging in inclusive political dialogue to avoid a repeat of 2006 and 2011, when deadly violence had unravelled the electoral process, he said, emphasizing that updating the electoral rolls and establishing an election date, as well as adequate security, were among the State’s priorities.
Progress had also been made in combating rebel groups, he said, noting that security challenges could be overcome with the Mission’s help. Even Rwanda’s Foreign Minister had recently acknowledged the gains made in neutralizing the FDLR, he noted. Possessing the Great Lakes region’s most open political space — comprising 400 parties, thriving private media organizations and an environment in which human rights were respected — the Democratic Republic of the Congo respected the rights of everyone, he said.
When necessary, courts and tribunals must get involved in tackling impunity and punishing human rights violators. On the repatriation of ex-M23 combatants, he said that despite the Government’s efforts in implementing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, certain former fighters in Rwanda and Uganda had resisted returning to the country. The Council should consider imposing sanctions on former combatants and their leaders refusing to return in violation of the relevant agreements, he said, appealing to neighbouring countries to assist in repatriation efforts.
As for MONUSCO, he said its first phase of discussions with Government had constructively addressed a drawdown strategy and disengagement road map. The strategy was being finalized and steps were being taken to advance those objectives, he said, stressing the need to preserve that “constructive spirit” through the second phase in sketching the road map with a view to making the Mission’s disengagement permanent. Underlining the importance of a realistic view of the situation on the ground, he expressed hope that the Security Council would support the end goal — celebrating the end of the world’s largest peacekeeping operation.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:00 a.m.