Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) - Security Council VTC Briefing

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30-Mar-2021 02:07:54
Briefing Security Council, Special Representative reports challenges, opportunities in lead-up to Democratic Republic of Congo elections.

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There are not only challenges, but also opportunities in the run-up to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s nationwide elections in 2023, the Secretary‑General’s new Special Representative in that country said today, as she urged the Security Council and the international community to act as one to help restore peace and stability there and to overcome the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Bintou Keita, who is also the Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), said that, during her first meetings with President Félix Tshisekedi and Prime Minister designate Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, she sensed “a momentum for change” and a chance to push forward with reforms that can help to resolve years of conflict in the country’s eastern provinces.

Speaking by videoconference, she continued: “I have been encouraged by the President’s determination and willingness to mobilize all necessary resources to address the security and stabilization needs of the Congolese people in the east, as well by the pragmatic, constructive and open engagement that I enjoyed with the Prime Minister-designate and all other senior Congolese officials.” Going forward, the international community must speak and act in unity, she added, emphasizing that the full support of Council members is indispensable.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO (document S/2021/274), she said that, in her meetings with Congolese leaders, she emphasized that the new Government must act promptly in several priority areas that dovetail with the Mission’s own to-do list, including security sector reform; the protection of civilians; the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; strengthening judicial systems; and preparations for the 2023 elections. In doing so, the Government must address pressing security, humanitarian and development needs without delay, she added.

Turning to MONUSCO’s phased drawdown, she reported that the Mission is expanding cooperation with the United Nations country team, among others, as it prepares to close its field offices in the Kasaï region in June, and in 2022, in Tanganyika Province. However, MONUSCO is not yet able to consider its withdrawal from the North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri Provinces due to persisting extremely serious security and protection challenges, she said. “To silence the guns, there is no military solution, but political strategies,” which take into account a host of social, economic and governance needs, including improved transparency and accountability in the mining sector.

Stressing the importance of the regional dimension, she said the Mission’s work with the Government will have only limited sustainability without a new regional vision and common platform to find non-military solutions to the drivers of cross-border conflict. In that regard, she said that she will, with the Council’s support, redouble engagement with the United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes. She also noted that President Tshisekedi’s ascension as Chair of the African Union is another opportunity to silence the guns in Central Africa and set the subregion on the path to peace, security and sustainable development.

Sandrine Lusumba, Executive Coordinator of the civil society group Women’s Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development, outlined the lessons learned by her organization over decades fighting for the rights of women. The sustained activities of armed groups in the eastern provinces, as well as intercommunal tensions throughout the country, continue to pose daily challenges, especially for women, and require a full, rapid and coordinated response involving both civilian and military partners, she emphasized. Spotlighting the severity of the human rights violations, she called for particular efforts to combat impunity, protect civilians and push truth and reconciliation initiatives forward.

Despite its long presence, MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians is limited, she continued, noting that the Mission’s reputation has been tarnished by several cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by both civilian and military personnel. Investigations and prosecutions are rarely carried out by troop-contributing countries, who serve as the only judges in such cases, she added. Since the political transition two years ago, which brought significant hope to the Congolese people, the situation seems not to have improved any further, she said, describing the recent killing of the Italian ambassador as a telling sign of how unstable the situation is for civilians, despite MONUSCO’s presence.

Outlining the severe instability and its tragic results for civilians in the town of Beni and elsewhere, she called upon the Council to dedicate efforts to tackling the driving causes of conflict, including by supporting the management of natural resources. United Nations units should monitor threats and attacks against women — including women politicians, activists and human rights defenders — as part of their early warning process, she stressed. Meanwhile, MONUSCO should prioritize community participation and apply a gender lens to all its mandated tasks and hold consultations with women’s organizations at every stage of the planning for its drawdown, she said.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern at increasing violence and the ongoing humanitarian situation, as well as human rights abuses. Many speakers condemned the 22 February attack on a United Nations convoy in North Kivu, in which three people were killed, including Italy’s Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Delegates also emphasized that MONUSCO’s drawdown and exit must be carried out with due consideration for the situation on the ground.

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