- The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 52 of Security Council resolution 2502 (2019), in which the Council requested me to report to it every six months on the implementation of the commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. 1 It provides an overview of peace and security developments in the Great Lakes region since the issuance of my previous report (S/2019/783) and covers the period from 1 September 2019 to 15 March 2020.
II. Major developments
A. Security situation
- During the period under review, the security situation in the region remained fragile, with continued challenges in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Military operations by the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against armed groups in North and South Kivu provinces were stepped up, in line with the commitment made by the President, Félix Tshisekedi, to deliver peace and stability, particularly in the east of the country. In North Kivu, the military offensive by FARDC against foreign and national armed groups appeared to have contributed to their weakening. However, increased retaliatory attacks by suspected elements of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have resulted in a deterioration of the security situation in that area. Meanwhile, allegations of cross-border security incidents continued to fuel tension among neighbouring countries in the region.
- On 30 October, FARDC launched military operations in North Kivu province that resulted in the capture of several ADF bases and the reported death of about 80 ADF combatants. Around 60 FARDC soldiers were reported to have lost their lives during the operations, while another 175 were wounded. Despite the progress achieved by FARDC, suspected ADF elements continued to carry out attacks, especially in the Beni area in North Kivu. An attack on 28 December resulted in the killing of 18 civilians in Apetina, Beni territory, significantly raising the number of civilians killed by the armed group during the reporting period. Furthermore, the situation in Ituri deteriorated as a result of the movement of dispersed ADF members from the Beni area into Irumu and Mambasa territories and subsequent attacks against civilians. It is estimated that some 250,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of 2020 owing to this development.
- FARDC military operations made progress against the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), including during operations in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, on 17 September, which resulted in the death of a top commander, General Sylvestre Mudacumura, and other top lieutenants. This was followed by the capture and surrender in Kalehe, South Kivu province, of 1,877 elements of the FDLR splinter group Conseil national pour le renouveau et la démocratie, including 367 combatants who were subsequently repatriated to Rwanda.
This was one of the most significant surrenders recorded in the context of military operations against the group. In a related development, FARDC operations led to the death of the commander of the Front de libération nationale, Jean Pierre Gaseni, on 30 November in Kalehe territory.
- In Burundi, the security situation remained relatively calm. However, on 17 November, armed elements attacked the Burundi National Defence Force near the town of Mabayi, Cibitoke province, close to the Rwandan border. The incident resulted in the death of 18 Burundian soldiers, including the commanding officer, and injured 13 others. Following the attack, Burundi deployed military reinforcements to its borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the request of Burundi, the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) investigated the incident. Its report was reviewed by the chiefs of the defence forces of the States members of ICGLR at a meeting held in Kampala on 15 January. The final report will be issued through the appropriate ICGLR channels.
- Isolated cross-border security incidents occurred elsewhere in the region during the period under review. On 5 October, suspected members of the FDLR splinter group Rassemblement pour l’unité et la démocratie (RUD-Urunana), reportedly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, carried out an attack in Musanze district in Rwanda, near the Volcanoes National Park, in which 14 people were killed. Rwanda stated that its defence forces had repelled the attackers, killing 19 of them and capturing 5. On 9 November, the commander of RUD-Urunana, General Juvenal Musabimana, also known as Jean-Michel Africa, died during a FARDC operation in Binza, Rutshuru territory, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Following a series of consultations in the context of the follow-up mechanism on the repatriation of disarmed combatants, established through the joint efforts of my Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and representatives of the other guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda signed a memorandum of understanding on 5 November in Kigali, in which they agreed to repatriate former combatants from the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) currently living in camps in Rwanda. In a related development, the Government of Uganda indicated that some former M23 elements encamped in Uganda might be willing to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the request of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, the guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework initiated preparations for a meeting of the follow-up mechanism to assess the support required by the countries concerned to finalize the repatriations and facilitate the reintegration of repatriated individuals.
- In the Central African Republic, armed groups continued to violate the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, especially in the north-east, centre and west of the country, including by carrying out attacks, imposing illegal taxes and obstructing the installation of State institutions and the deployment of security forces. In addition, conflicts among armed groups and clashes between them and the Forces armées centrafricaines had a negative impact on peace and security in certain parts of the country.
- South Sudan witnessed a reduction in conflict-related violence, as the ceasefire continued to hold in most parts of the country, despite isolated security incidents. The South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, mandated in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, was reconstituted in September. The Commission has yet to begin its activities in cantonment sites, however, owing to funding challenges.