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UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (27 March), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), until 31 March 2019.

The draft resolution, circulated by the penholder France on 14 March, renews the mission at the same troop levels and sets three priority tasks: protection of civilians, implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement on elections and support for the electoral process, and protection of UN personnel and facilities. MONUSCO’s other tasks are to assist stabilisation and disarmament and demobilization efforts, work with the DRC on security sector reform, and monitor the implementation of the arms embargo imposed on armed groups by the Council. In accordance with the strategic review of the Secretary-General (S/2017/826), which recommended the streamlining of MONUSCO’s activities around a limited set of priorities, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to prioritise and align budgetary resources in accordance with the prioritisation of tasks set out in the mandate.

Generally, negotiations were not contentious, particularly compared to last year’s mandate renewal, when the US and the UK pushed for troop reductions. The current text retains troop levels, and also requests the Secretary-General to undertake contingency planning, in order to consider temporarily reinforcing MONUSCO, looking at all options including through inter-mission cooperation, within 90 days.

The issue of protection of civilians is central to the text. According to the draft text, the mission is to continue to implement its mandate with increased flexibility and mobility. The draft further calls on MONUSCO to streamline its overall command and control capacity, in order to increase effectiveness and to improve coordination between all of its components.

On the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the text renews its mandate to neutralise and disarm armed groups, in order to contribute to the objective of reducing the threat posed by armed groups to state authority and civilian security and to make space for stabilisation activities. Previous mandates noted that the FIB should do so in eastern DRC. However, the reference to the east was removed in order to allow more flexibility in the utilisation of the force. In addition, language was added that the FIB is to operate “under direct command of MONUSCO Force commander”. This was done to follow up on the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his strategic review, to co-locate the headquarters of the FIB with that of MONUSCO (rather than in Goma), under the direct command of the Force Commander, thus simplifying the command structure of the FIB in an effort to improve its effectiveness.

A related point is the performance of MONUSCO’s contingents and reporting by the Secretary-General on this issue. This has been a matter of ongoing tension in the Council and within the wider membership, with some Council members, including the US, pushing for more reporting of the Secretary-General on the performance, or under-performance, of specific contingents. On the other hand, troop and police contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs) see this as an exercise in public shaming and as a way to single out specific contingents.

The draft circulated by France contained several paragraphs on this issue. It highlights that lack of effective command and control, refusal to obey orders, failure to respond to attacks on civilians, national caveats undeclared by TCCs and PCCs, and inadequate equipment may adversely mandate implementation. It further requests the Secretary-General to report on instances of under-performance, including when TCCs and PCCs claim that the factors above have hampered their performance, and on ways to address such instances.

The Secretary-General is also requested to conduct a comprehensive performance review of all MONUSCO units in accordance with the Operational Readiness Assurance and Performance Improvement Policy and his zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence and abuse, by September 2018. He is further asked to report to the Council every three months, as part of his regular reporting, on the percentage of MONUSCO contingents who have satisfied the requirements of these reviews, and the status of any remediation action to address contingents who have not satisfied requirements.

At the same time, language was added that recognises that the effective implementation of MONUSCO’s mandate is also contingent upon several critical factors, including well-defined, realistic and achievable mandates; political will, leadership, performance and accountability at all levels; adequate resources; and policy, planning and operational guidelines and training. Furthermore, the draft notes that measuring and monitoring peacekeeping performance should be based on comprehensive and objective methodologies with clear and well defined benchmarks.

Another main focus of the resolution is the political situation, as President Joseph Kabila, whose second and last term (under the country’s constitution) ended in December 2016, remains in office. According to an agreement reached between Kabila and the opposition on 31 December 2016, elections were to be held by the end of 2017, and Kabila was not to initiate amendments to the constitution and run for a third term. Kabila, however, has refrained from stating his intentions over the last year, although over the last month, members of his government stated that Kabila will not run for re-election.

Citing logistical difficulties preventing the elections from being held on time on 5 November 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the publication of a new electoral calendar, including technical benchmarks, for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018. The draft resolution calls on all stakeholders in the DRC, including Kabila, to swiftly implement the agreement and to fully implement confidence-building measures. In particular, the confidence-building measures would include the release of all political prisoners and an end to “unjustified lawsuits”, as they are referred to in the agreement. It further underscores the need to do everything possible to ensure that the 23 December 2018 elections are organised with the requisite conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity and security.

The draft resolution contains language that criticises human rights violations in the country. In the context of the elections, there have been several incidents of violent crackdown by the DRC government on peaceful protests over the last few months. Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, in a briefing to the Council on 7 March, said that security forces have used excessive means to quash several peaceful anti-Kabila protests since December 2017. Against this backdrop and the limiting of free participation in the electoral process by the government more generally, the draft resolution calls on the DRC to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially the right of peaceful assembly, lift the blanket ban on demonstrations, and exercise maximum restraint in their response to protests. At the same time, the draft also calls upon the opposition actors to show responsibility by ensuring the peaceful character of their demonstrations.

During the negotiations, Ethiopia maintained that the text is unbalanced in its attitude towards the government. Particularly, it wanted the reference to Kabila to be stricken. However, several Council members insisted that the explicit reference to Kabila remains in the text, as it was in the previous mandate renewal (resolution 2348).

MONUSCO is to provide political support to the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, and technical assistance and logistical support for the electoral process. It is also tasked with monitoring the elections to ensure that any support provided by the UN shall be consistent with international humanitarian law and human rights law and refugee law as applicable, while the Council will continuously review this support according to the progress made by the Congolese authorities in the steering of the electoral process.
In the context of elections, the Secretary-General is to include in his reporting information on the ways in which MONUSCO will be best prepared to address security risks and to monitor and report on human rights violations and abuses in the context of the elections, including on sexual violence and the impact of conflict on women and children.

Finally, there is a general consensus among Council members that they should remain focused on the DRC throughout 2018. Accordingly, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement every 30 days, rather than every 45 days as in the previous mandate. Moreover, these reports are to include assessment of whether the benchmarks and the electoral calendar are met.

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