Amid Rising Tensions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Security Council Must Press All Actors to Endorse New Political Accord, Peacekeeping Chief Stresses

The Security Council must continue to call on all political actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo to endorse the country’s new peace agreement, reached on 31 December 2016 under the auspices of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, stressed the United Nations peacekeeping chief as he briefed the 15-member body this morning.

Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also underscored the need for all Congolese actors to put in place a transitional government of national unity and to agree on concrete plans to implement the accord, which the Council had endorsed on 4 January through a Presidential Statement (see Press Release SC/12667).  “Failure to do so risks delaying the holding of elections and greatly increases the risk of renewed political crisis and increased violence across the country,” he warned. 

Updating Council members on the current political and security situation, he said the signing of the agreement had taken place at a critical time for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  There had been a rise in political tensions, as well as several violent incidents following the expiration of President Joseph Kabila’s second and final mandate on 19 December 2016. 

That agreement had helped to stabilize a situation which “could have exploded”, he said, adding that certain groups — including the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo — had not yet signed onto it, and others had signed with reservations.  Some had expressed concerns that the provisions of the agreement were not realistic; while others feared potential political consequences should a new Government of national unity be put in place.

Noting that the accord had opened horizons for the holding of democratic elections in December 2017, he stressed that political, financial, technical and logistical support would be needed on a large scale.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), as well as the United Nations Secretariat, would be “actively but discreetly” involved to ensure that all parties demonstrated a spirit of compromise, he went on.  Expressing deep concern over reports of human rights violations and acts of violence that had occurred in Kinshasa and other cities on 19 and 20 December 2016, including demonstrations that had turned violent, he encouraged the Government to launch a full investigation into the events that had led to the excessive use of force and loss of life and to ensure that those responsible were held accountable.

Turning to the security situation in the east of the country, which remained volatile, he highlighted threats posed by foreign armed groups — namely the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) — and increasing activities of armed militia groups.  Such violence was driven in part by the escalation of deep-rooted and long-standing conflicts between ethnic communities.

Another factor was the spillover effects of instability in neighbouring countries, notably South Sudan and Burundi, he said.  Around 70,000 South Sudanese refugees had entered the Democratic Republic of Congo over the past six months, resulting in significant humanitarian challenges.  Continued reports of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in Opposition (SPLA/M-IO)’s movement, including into refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were a cause for major concern.  Efforts were underway to relocate refugees further from the border.

MONUSCO, acting in support of the Congolese national security forces, continued its efforts to counter the destabilizing activities of armed groups, he said.  While some limited progress had been made, much remained to be done, and such efforts would require long-term military engagement combined with efforts by the national authorities.  Many of the issues facing the east of the country could only be resolved through meaningful political engagement by authorities at the national and provincial levels.

Concluding, he committed to revert to the Council soon with recommendations on how best to adjust MONUSCO to the prevailing security and political situation and the timely implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, within its existing mandate.

Marcel Utembi, President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, also briefed the Council, stressing the urgency of maintaining and building on civilian peace and ensuring the responsible management of institutions before and during elections.  Significant resources must be mobilized to meet vital social and election needs, he said, noting that the parties involved had continued to call upon the international community to provide financial and logistical support to the Electoral Commission to ensure good conduct during the election.

Noting that the efficient functioning of institutions depended on goodwill, as well as political resolve and adequate financing, he also underscored the need to include civil society in that process.  MONUSCO must help the Government build capacity and continue its role in maintaining peace, particularly in the east of the country.

Welcoming the fact that parties to the agreement had pledged to closely study the case of political prisoners, political refugees and any punishments imposed on the Congolese people, he also called on the international community to ensure the protection of human rights and help ensure the accord’s successful implementation under the agreed timetable.

Following those briefings, the representative of Uruguay reiterated his country’s commitment to stability and peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Welcoming the political agreement reached in Kinshasa — whose key objectives were to organize presidential and legislative elections and to ensure a peaceful handover of power — he encouraged political parties that had not yet done so to sign onto it.

There was much at stake, he continued.  While recent political events were a reason for optimism, concerns remained about increasing report of human rights violations.  In 2016, thousands of such violations had been committed by both agents of the State and armed groups, while MONUSCO had observed a narrowing of the political space and violations of freedom of expression and assembly.  In that regard, he called on authorities to respect fundamental freedoms and exercise restraint when responding to protests.

Also addressing the Council, the representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo emphasized that the 31 December 2016 agreement was an important and legitimate one.  President Kabila had delivered a statement to the nation on 31 December 2016 underscoring his determination to organize elections in a timely fashion, he said, noting that the process of revising voting lists continued throughout the country.

On the security front, he described the continued presence of foreign armed forces, including the ADF, FDLR and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as several national armed groups.  The Congolese national forces and MONUSCO had been working to combat those armed groups and would continue to do so to ensure that civilians could live under a sustainable peace.

While the Government was undertaking efforts to eradicate the forces, it was unacceptable that the territory had once again become a haven for armed groups from neighbouring countries, such as South Sudan.  The Government had recently submitted a letter to the Council describing the conditions that had led to that situation, he said, calling on the entity to take all necessary measures to quickly remove such combatants from his country.

Turning finally to the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he stressed that neighbouring countries should undertake efforts to encourage the return of the armed groups associated with them.  The current policy of voluntary surrender had demonstrated its limits, he said, noting that the repatriation of FDLR and ex-23 March Movement members, in particular, needed to be sped up.

The meeting began at 9:34 a.m. and ended at 10:10 a.m.

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