MONUSCO Still Has Work to Do: DRC Authorities Need Its Cooperation to Protect Human Rights

18/12/2019
Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Ligue des Electeurs, the Groupe Lotus and Association africaine des droits de l’Homme (ASADHO), released a joint report yesterday, calling on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to renew the mandate of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) by formulating an effective strategy to support the new authorities, including in preparation for its departure from the country. MONUSCO has just celebrated its 20th year in the DRC, 18 of which occurred in an authoritarian political context unfavourable to its presence in the country. Almost a year after the political changeover, it is essential that MONUSCO’s mandate be renewed so that it can work together with authorities to address the major challenges ahead.

Our organisations published an analytical report requesting that the UNSC renew MONUSCO’s mandate for one year, according to specific priorities, while giving it the necessary and effective means to support the new authorities in their efforts to better protect human rights. As part of the ongoing mandate negotiations, our organisations conducted an advocacy mission to New York last week, in particular to present our recommendations to the various relevant actors.

A window of opportunity seems to have opened to make concrete progress. Our organisations believe that the new political context following the December 2018 presidential election is favourable to change and should be seized as an opportunity for MONUSCO and the new authorities to make concrete progress in the promotion and protection of human rights. This should be achieved in particular through, on the one hand, strengthening efforts to promote democratic openness and the development of democratic, effective and independent institutions (particularly in the field of security), and on the other hand, effective and local protection of civilians. Finally, support for the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes, including sexual violence, but also through the establishment of mechanisms for community reconciliation, mediation and truth-finding where necessary.

The UNSC is scheduled to meet a second time this year, in a few days’ time, to adopt a resolution on MONUSCO’s new mandate. The Security Council, which in principle decides annually on MONUSCO’s mandate, had already adopted a resolution in March 2019 giving the Mission a nine-month interim mandate until a strategic review to assess an exit from the country after 20 years of presence in the DRC was conducted by an independent expert, but also to take into account the new context in the country. Indeed, the last presidential election in the DRC, held at the end of December 2018, gave rise to a political alternation at the head of the state with the accession to power in January 2019 of Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi, the new president of the DRC, following Joseph Kabila’s 18-year regime. This political transition, although recent and fragile given the system of "cohabitation" it has put in place following the legislative and provincial elections, has already produced encouraging initial results in terms of opening up the democratic space. These results deserve to be reinforced and cemented.

Regional cooperation, including with existing UN mechanisms such as the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Great Lakes and the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region, should also be strengthened throughout the conduct of MONUSCO’s activities.

While a departure from the DRC seemed imminent a few months ago, the resurgence of attacks by the armed group of the Allied Democratic Forces against civilians in North Kivu, in Béni, and the violence of the population against MONUSCO, whose actions are considered insufficient, have revived the debate on its ability to protect civilians in a tense security context. Though discussions are under way at the United Nations on the form and conditions of its departure, our organisations note that, in light of the new political situation and the security context in the eastern parts of the country, it would not be appropriate to permit MONUSCO’s immediate withdrawal from the country. Renewing its mandate for one more year will allow MONUSCO, hand in hand with the new government, to achieve crucial progress to be made in the advancement of human rights in the country.

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