Tomorrow (9 January), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will brief the Council on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The briefing will be followed by consultations.
The recent protests and related violence over delays in holding presidential elections will most likely be a key focus of the meeting. The briefing comes after it was reported that demonstrations in Kinshasa and other cities, organised by Catholic and opposition groups on 31 December 2017, were met with violence by security forces. The protests marked the one-year anniversary of the 31 December 2016 agreement reached between President Joseph Kabila, whose second presidential term was to end on that day, and the opposition, according to which elections were to be held by the end of 2017. However, citing logistical difficulties, the DRC Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced a new electoral calendar on 5 November 2017, with presidential, legislative and provincial elections set for 23 December 2018. Leaders of the opposition have since demanded that Kabila step down.
According to some reports, 12 people were killed in the protests. A spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Liz Throssell, said that at least five people were killed, 92 injured, and around 180 arrested during the protests, while noting that there were probably more casualties than reported. She noted that the OHCHR was alarmed at the brutal action of the security forces which allegedly fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at protestors, in some cases at point-blank range.
Another point of interest for Council members will be to follow up on the deadly 7 December 2017 attack on a base of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in North Kivu that claimed the lives of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and wounded dozens of others, with one soldier remaining missing. Five DRC soldiers were also killed in the attack, which has been attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist group originating in Uganda and currently based in eastern DRC.
On 5 January, the Secretary-General announced that a special investigation into the events will be headed by former UN Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov. According to the Secretary-General, investigators will examine the peacekeepers' response to the attack, as well as other assaults on UN forces in the area, and make recommendations on how to prevent further violent incidents.
The attack on the peacekeepers takes place in the context of continuing violence in the east, as well as in the Kasai. Gaining a better understanding of MONUSCO’s posture and response will be especially informative for Council members ahead of MONUSCO’s mandate renewal, which is due by 31 March.
Over the weekend, France circulated a draft press statement expressing Council members’ deep concern over the attempts of the DRC to block peaceful protests, condemning the violence, and calling on the DRC to investigate instances of excessive use of force. It further called on all parties and actors to reject violence and underscored the importance of fair and free elections to peace and stability in the DRC.
Yesterday (7 January), France invited comments and suggestions from Council members to produce an agreed text. At press time, Council members have yet to agree on the text of the press statement, and if they are unable to finalise the statement by tomorrow, they are likely to continue discussing the matter during consultations, following the briefing.