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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Renewal of the Sanctions Regime

Tomorrow (29 June), the Security Council is set to renew the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime until 1 July 2019 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2019.

The draft resolution is essentially a “technical rollover” of the current sanctions regime. It reaffirms that sanctions will apply to individuals and entities designated by the Committee that meet criteria outlined in previous resolutions. These include engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the DRC, as well as planning, directing, sponsoring, or participating in attacks against MONUSCO peacekeepers or UN personnel, including members of the Group of Experts.

This year’s draft resolution is particularly succinct in comparison with past resolutions renewing the DRC sanctions regime. For example, last year’s resolution (S/RES/2360) was comprised of a long preambular section and 35 operative paragraphs, whereas this year’s draft has a short preambular part and only six operative paragraphs. One reason the draft resolution is succinct is that, in parallel, the Council is also negotiating a presidential statement on the tense political situation in the DRC, particularly regarding the electoral process, circulated to Council members on 27 June. It appears that several political messages that might have been incorporated in the sanctions draft may instead be made in the presidential statement currently under discussion.

Members remain concerned with the ongoing political crisis and dire security situation in the DRC, as President Joseph Kabila, whose second and final term (under the country’s constitution) ended in December 2016, remains in office and the security crisis in eastern DRC persists. There is consensus about the imperative of holding elections on 23 December without further delays, in alignment with the position of regional actors. Differences among Council members remain, however, regarding their assessment of the nature of the political crisis, with some seeing it as a constitutional issue and others as one with wider national and regional implications.

The listing criterion in the resolution regarding attacks on UN staff, including the Group of Experts, was added in June 2017 (S/RES/2360) in response to the murder of two members of the DRC Group of Experts, American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalán. In this regard, a preambular paragraph of the draft resolution to be adopted tomorrow reiterates the need for the DRC to swiftly and fully investigate the killing of the two members of the Group of Experts and the four Congolese nationals accompanying them and to bring those responsible to justice. The draft further welcomes the work of the UN team deployed by the Secretary-General to assist the Congolese authorities in their investigation, in agreement with these authorities, and calls for continued cooperation in this regard.

The call for continued cooperation is particularly relevant considering the findings of the Group of Experts’ latest report (S/2018/531). While the report notes that two suspects were arrested by Congolese authorities in March 2018, it says that cooperation between Congolese authorities and the follow-up mechanism has been deficient and that the Congolese security services have interfered with the investigation. The follow-up mechanism was established by the Secretary-General to assist national authorities with their investigation of the murders and consists of a senior UN official, four technical experts and support staff.

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