1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2409 (2018), by which the Council requested me to report on the implementation of the commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. It provides an overview of peace and security developments in the Great Lakes region since the issuance of my previous report (S/2018/886) and covers the period from 1 September 2018 to 28 February 2019.
II. Major developments
A. Security situation
2. The activities of foreign and domestic illegal armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cross-border security incidents, insecurity in the Central African Republic, sporadic fighting between Government and opposition forces in South Sudan and clashes between the Burundian armed forces and armed groups had a negative impact on peace and stability in the Great Lakes region during the reporting period.
3. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tensions were reported before and after the elections of 30 December 2018 and included instances of protests, violence, clashes between supporters of opposing parties and heavy-handed dispersion of demonstrators by security forces. On a positive note, armed groups that had been very vocal about the outcome of the elections appear to have adopted a “wait and see” approach since the proclamation of the final results of the presidential election. In the Kasai region, an uptrend in the number of Kamuina Nsapu militia members laying down their weapons was recorded during the same period. In Mai-Ndombe Province, the security situation in Yumbi territory remains of concern, after violence broke out between the Batende and Banunu ethnic groups, which a human rights investigation confirmed had resulted in 535 deaths.
4. In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) stepped up attacks in the Beni area, targeting civilians, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). At least 245 civilians, including 55 women and seven children, were killed in attacks attributed to ADF in 2018. The group reportedly continued to recruit followers from countries in the Great Lakes region and beyond. On 12 November, FARDC and MONUSCO launched a joint military operation against the group to prevent a potential attack on Beni town and to protect civilians. A total of 13 FARDC soldiers and seven United Nations peacekeepers were killed during the operation. On 20 November, the military spokesperson of Uganda announced the deployment of approximately 4,000 troops along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prevent infiltration and attacks by ADF. In Ituri Province, as dialogue on demobilization and disarmament continued between the Government and the rebel Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri, the parties met on 20 January, discussed pre-cantonment and financial issues and agreed on a security assessment of pre-cantonment sites, as well as meetings with provincial authorities. Meanwhile, subgroups of the Lord’s Resistance Army have become more active in Haut-Uélé Province, and the latter half of January saw an increase in the number of incidents attributed to this armed group.
5. On 15 December, FARDC arrested the spokesperson and deputy head of intelligence of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and media sources reported their extradition to Rwanda in January. While the extradition and repatriation of disarmed FDLR combatants weakened the group, FDLR remained active. On 16 and 17 December, seven FARDC soldiers were reportedly killed in two separate attacks by suspected FDLR rebels. Military operations in December and January against an FDLR splinter group, Conseil national pour le renouveau et la démocratie-Ubwiyunge, forced the latter to abandon positions in North Kivu and move into South Kivu.
6. In Burundi, the security situation remained relatively calm yet unpredictable and was marked by isolated security incidents. On 4 September, unidentified armed individuals attacked Nkurubuye colline in Ruyigi Province, along the border between Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania. On 19 October, suspected elements of the Burundian armed group Résistance pour un état de droit au Burundi-Tabara (RED-Tabara) attacked an army position in Bubanza Province. Burundian armed forces captured two assailants, while the others reportedly fled into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
7. The security situation in the Central African Republic remained fragile. On 15 November, the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique, an armed group affiliated with the ex-Séléka, together with armed civilians, attacked the camp for displaced persons in Alindao. Between 70 and 100 civilians among the estimated 18,000 civilians hosted in the camp were killed. In addition, some armed groups continued to acquire weapons and ammunition from neighbouring countries, as reported by the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic in its report S/2018/1119.
8. In South Sudan, sporadic fighting between the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces and opposition forces, as well as among opposition groups, continued. Incidents of intercommunal and intracommunal violence were also reported, resulting in civilian casualties and displacement.
9. Cross-border security incidents were reported in the areas between Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, contributing to enhanced tensions between Burundi and Rwanda. On 15 September, suspected elements of the Forces nationales de libération (FNL) reportedly entered Burundi from South Kivu to attack a border post at Gatumba. On 19 September, a local leader of the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, was killed with his wife, near the border with Rwanda. The Ministry of Public Security of Burundi attributed the attack to an armed group from Rwanda. On 7 October, unidentified armed elements reportedly from Rwanda killed three civilians in Cibitoke Province in Burundi. Also, in October, FARDC reportedly clashed with FNL in South Kivu. Furthermore, the Burundian national defence force was reported to have entered South Kivu between November and January, in pursuit of Burundian armed elements. Deadly clashes were also reported between the Burundian national defence force, supported by Imbonerakure, and RED-Tabara, as well as FNL.
10. Armed groups also staged attacks targeting Rwanda. On 10 December, the FDLR-Forces combattantes abacunguzi made a cross-border incursion into Busesamana village, in Rubavu district in Rwanda, and killed at least three soldiers, according to the Government of Rwanda. On 15 December, unidentified armed attackers, reportedly coming from Burundi, launched an attack in Kitabi Sector, southern Rwanda, setting fire to three passenger vehicles and killing two civilians. According to Rwanda’s military spokesperson, three of the attackers were killed, while the rest fled to Burundi.
11. The Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported the presence of an armed coalition known as “P5” associated with Rwandan opposition groups, which was active in South Kivu and reportedly received arms and ammunition from Burundi.
12. In September, the follow-up mechanism for the repatriation of former combatants, launched on 24 April 2018, facilitated the repatriation of 11 disarmed FDLR combatants to Rwanda from the Walungu transit camp, in South Kivu. In November, another 52 disarmed FDLR combatants and dependants volunteered for repatriation. This brought the total number of disarmed FDLR combatants repatriated through the follow-up mechanism since April 2018 to 98.
13. Between 20 and 27 November, Congolese authorities, through bilateral arrangements with the Government of Rwanda, repatriated 1,392 disarmed FDLR combatants and dependants, following the closure of transit camps in Kanyobagonga, Kisangani and Walungu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Furthermore, 242 FDLR elements previously detained in the Angenga prison, in Equateur Province, were handed over to Rwanda. All disarmed combatants were transferred to the Mutobo Demobilization and Reintegration Camp in Rwanda.
14. In another positive development, in October, cooperation between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO resulted in the relocation out of MONUSCO premises of the remaining 51 members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, who had been in the care of MONUSCO since August 2016.