Sanctions Committee Chair, Country Representative also Speak
United Nations operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be drawn down gradually, in consultation with the Government and without reversing gains in stability and civilian protection achieved so far, the Head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today.
“MONUSCO’s exit should be progressive, tied to specific criteria and targets jointly developed with the Government,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Council using the acronym of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as he introduced the results of a strategic review of the Mission (document S/2014/957) in a meeting that also heard from Dina Kawar of Jordan, Chair of the 1533 Sanctions Committee, as well the country’s Permanent Representative, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta.
Mr. Ladsous said that the Government had already been extensively consulted on the review, which was mandated by Security Council resolution 2147 (2014) and covered a wide range of issues, including the political situation, the upcoming elections and security challenges. There was agreement that much had been achieved over the past years, including the withdrawal of foreign armed forces, the country’s reunification, the establishment of the Transitional Government and two national elections.
The threat of Congolese and foreign armed groups continued, however, despite the defeat of the 23 March Movement (M23), with the main concerns now the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), he said. MONUSCO continued to play an important role in neutralizing the groups and stabilizing the country, as the report showed.
He said that in the face of criticism of the Mission’s effectiveness, the report also contained several recommendations for improvements. Structural changes were not enough; there must be a change in the behaviour of troop-contributing countries. All contingents must be ready and willing to use armed force proactively against any who threatened civilians. It was clear, at the same time, that civilians’ protection could not be reduced to military action alone.
The Congolese Government, he said, was advocating for greater reductions in military deployment than the cut of 2,000 troops recommended by the Secretary-General. Given the numerous remaining challenges, however, “any reduction beyond the recommended figure would have negative implications on the ability of the Force to implement its mandate”, given the remaining threats as well as envisioned imminent action with Congolese forces against the FDLR. That would require a lot of time and must not result in “devastating consequences” to the population, as had occurred during a 2009 Congolese action against the group.
Finally, noting troubling incidents related to the electoral process in cities across the country this past week, Mr. Ladsous stressed that political objectives must be pursued through non-violent means and the Government must be allow for the peaceful expression of opinion. Reports that the Government ordered Internet sites and other communications infrastructure to be shut down were alarming. The freedom of communication was essential to democracy, he emphasized.
Mr. Gata Mavita wa Lufuta agreed that much had been accomplished by his country in partnership with the United Nations over the past 15 years. Now, however, an assessment must be made to keep the partnership relevant as the country entered a new stage of progress. “Fifteen years is a whole lifetime,” he said, agreeing that frank discussion should take place to reach consensus with the Organization on the future of MONUSCO and further United Nations involvement in the country. “All that we ask is that we be treated as adults,” he said.
To enhance national ownership of all efforts, the country needed, first and foremost, capacity-building and similar development assistance, he said, going on to describe ongoing reform processes in the security, governance and economic sectors. Those, he said, had created the conditions for long-term stability and prosperity, but required assistance for further progress.
He concurred that action should now take place against the FDLR after it had missed its deadline to disband, adding that it was up to the army to adapt its strategy to a force that hid among civilians. On elections, he said that the Government was committed to free and fair polls. Recommendations from the 2011 balloting had been taken into account, especially regarding gender issues and the participation of citizens outside the country.
Briefing on the findings of the Group of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee, Ms. Kawar said that a military operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had failed to defeat the sanctioned armed group and believed that the Allied Forces still had the potential to regroup, as its support and finance networks had not been significantly affected. At the same time, the experts had not found credible evidence suggesting that it had ties to foreign terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
Since the Expert Group’s midterm report (document S/2014/428), she said, the FDLR leadership had failed to demonstrate a genuine commitment to disarmament. FDLR leaders and supporters were meeting outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo and engaging in local taxation and natural resources exploitation. Moreover, the ADF and FDLR continued to recruit child soldiers, and the ADF practiced torture and sexual violence. No progress had been made in addressing the smuggling of gold, and the exploitation of and trade in wildlife products, including ivory, remained a serious problem involving armed groups, elements of the Congolese army, local poachers and armed bands from South Sudan.
She spotlighted some of the Group’s 15 recommendations, including that the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates exchange information to ensure that gold trading was transparent and complied with due diligence standards, namely by requiring full documentation, including a certificate of origin. The Group also proposed that those Governments, including that of the United Kingdom, investigate individuals identified in the report as being involved in supporting ADF networks, and that they take action to end it. With 12 March marking 11 years since the establishment of the Sanctions Committee, important questions remained on, among others, weapons stockpile management and information sharing.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.