Debate on the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Mr President, for chairing today’s debate. Your own presence here today is a clear reflection of your Government’s commitment to efforts to enhance peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I would also like to thank SRSG Kobler, Special Envoy Robinson, and Minister Lourenço [Angolan Defence Minister] for their briefings, and I acknowledge Angola’s crucial role as ICGLR Chair. I also acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the MONUSCO force commander General Dos Santos Cruz.
The participation of Ministers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and region underlines the importance of reinvigorating the momentum and political will needed to definitively break the cycle of violence in the DRC.
The conflict’s staggering toll is a searing reminder of the stakes involved – over 5 million lives lost, millions displaced, and horrific human rights abuses perpetrated with impunity against men, women, and children.
We have seen some promising signs of progress: defeat of the M23; weakening of the ADF [Allied Democratic Forces]; and important strides made by the DRC with passage of the Amnesty Law, ongoing police reforms, and steps to re-establish state authority in areas formerly controlled by armed groups.
But we know all too well that these gains are fragile and reversible, as SRSG Kobler as reminded us this morning. A myriad of armed groups still operate in eastern DRC. Civilians continue to face horrific acts of violence, as the recent massacre in Mutarule and instability in Katanga testify. And the pace of key reforms is far too slow.
I’d like to focus on three areas where urgent progress is crucial if the elusive goal of peace, stability and development in the DRC is to be achieved. We must seize the current window in advance of the upcoming electoral cycle.
Firstly, the FDLR [Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda].
No one underestimates the destabilising impact the FDLR has had on eastern DRC and the region. The Council has been clear on the imperative of ending this threat once and for all.
We welcome the first steps taken towards disarmament of the FDLR. But the initial surrender of close to 200 low-ranking FDLR combatants, while positive, falls well short of our ultimate objective.
The agreement reached at the July ICGLR-SADC Ministerial on a six-month period for the FDLR to voluntarily surrender and disarm could potentially deliver a solution to the FDLR issue that avoids further bloodshed. This would be welcome, given how entrenched FDLR combatants are in local communities.
For the initiative to be effective, it is essential that there be no ambiguity and no preconditions to the disarmament. The current signals of non-cooperation are worrying. We must closely monitor and assess the results achieved, including through the three-month mid-term review in October, and be clear in our definition of success: that is, real and full disarmament, not tactical deceit by the FDLR to regroup. The criteria set out by SRSG Kobler seem appropriate and should be applied. And we must continue to apply pressure and maintain a credible military option, as we have mandated in Resolution 2147.
The process can be transformative; other armed groups are watching closely. But the risks of failure, and the destabilising precedent this could set, are also real.
Secondly, implementation of the Nairobi Declaration.
We have seen the impact of concerted military action by the Congolese Armed Forces and Intervention Brigade in defeating the M23, and the subsequent surrender of some 4,000 members of armed groups. 250,000 people have been able to return home in North Kivu, and 500,000 in South Kivu.
We welcome the steps taken by the DRC to implement the provisions in the Nairobi Declaration, including on amnesty.
It is crucial that M23 elements are repatriated from Rwanda and Uganda, and that further progress is made to operationalise the DDR programme. Effective DDR would not only prevent the re-emergence of another M23-like rebellion, but would also provide an important incentive to other armed elements to abandon their predatory way of life.
Finally, accelerating the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework,
The Framework included clear commitments from all relevant parties for the first time to integrate political, security, and development efforts – an essential nexus to tackle the root causes of violence.
Eighteen months on, there has been some progress, but key reforms are lagging – in particular regarding DRC’s security sector and establishment of a rapid reaction force – a vital component of MONUSCO’s exit strategy.
The PSC Framework requires political will, together with human and financial resources, to be successful. MONUSCO and its Intervention Brigade have acted as a circuit-breaker – creating the political space to pursue the necessary reforms. The ground-breaking decision by this Council to establish the Brigade was the right one – but the opportunity it creates must be seized. And we thank SRSG Kobler for his reaffirmation today of the MONUSCO leadership’s commitment to ensuring a robust approach by the mission as a whole to the protection of the DRC’s civilians, which is, as we all know, the core of the mission’s mandate.
The true litmus test of the PSC Framework will be the improvement it provides in the lives of civilians– the provision of basic social services by the Government, reform of state institutions, strengthening of rule of law, and effective accountability.
Let me end by paying tribute to outgoing Special Envoy Robinson for her efforts to deliver a “Framework of Hope”, and for her important work to champion women’s participation in all aspects of the peacebuilding process; these efforts must continue.
We wish her well in her new position – and we look forward to working with Said Djinnit. His engagement with regional leaders, civil society, and other stakeholders will be crucial to ensuring that the Framework of Hope truly delivers on its promise.