Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council will be briefed by Maman Sambo Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, will brief on the latest report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement.
The mandate of MONUSCO expires on 31 March 2017.
Key Recent Developments
On the political front, the presidential election scheduled for 27 November continues to be a deeply divisive issue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as it is clear that it will be logistically impossible to hold the election on time, despite the fact that the second and—according to the constitution—last presidential term of President Joseph Kabila ends on 19 December. On 17 September, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) petitioned the Constitutional Court for a postponement of the presidential election without proposing a new date. This was the first official recognition by a DRC institution that the presidential election will not be held in November.
A national dialogue on elections began on 1 September with the assistance of Edem Kodjo, the AU-appointed facilitator of the dialogue. Several of the main opposition groups have chosen not to participate, as they see the talks as a delaying tactic by Kabila to remain in power. Those parties have formed a coalition called “Rassemblement”, headed by Etienne Tshisekedi.
After setbacks in the talks regarding the sequencing of the electoral cycle, the participating opposition parties and the government announced on 14 September that they had agreed that the presidential, legislative, provincial and local polls would be held simultaneously. If this proves to be logistically impractical, the other polls may be further delayed, but not the presidential election. Participants in the dialogue tentatively agreed to form an interim government that will include opposition members and will run the country until elections can be held. A specific date has yet to be determined, but it seems that elections will not be held before July 2017, when the CENI expects to finish its update of the voter census.
To contribute to the national dialogue, the government has released 118 political prisoners. Nevertheless, tensions remain high regarding the ability of opposition parties to participate in political activities leading up to the elections amid an atmosphere of increased harassment and human rights violations, mostly against opposition members, civil society representatives and journalists. On 15 July, Council members issued a press statement stressing the crucial importance of a peaceful and credible electoral cycle in accordance with the constitution and expressing their concern at the increased restrictions on political activities in the DRC.
On 23 June, the US imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, police commissioner of Kinshasa, for alleged involvement in dozens of deaths and other actions that have created a “climate of fear” over the past three years. According to media reports, the EU is considering sanctions on the DRC for the violent suppression of opposition.
An anti-Kabila rally in Kinshasa organised by the Rassemblement opposition deteriorated into violent clashes between government forces and demonstrators on 19 and 20 September. Congolese officials have said that 32 people were killed, including four policemen, one of whom was burned alive. The opposition claims that more than 50 people were killed. MONUSCO estimates that roughly 180 people were arrested following these events. Council members issued a press statement on 21 September expressing concern over the violence and stressing the crucial importance of peaceful, inclusive and timely elections in accordance with the constitution.
While attention is focused on the political situation, violence committed by rebel groups in eastern DRC continues. According to the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), 135 civilians were killed in areas affected by armed conflict in August. On 16 August, Council members issued a press statement condemning the killing of at least 50 civilians on 13 August in the area of Rwangoma village, North Kivu Province, by suspected members of the Ugandan Islamist Allied Democratic Forces rebel group.
On 24 August, the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee briefed Committee members on its programme of work.
The chair of the Committee, Ambassador Amr Aboulatta (Egypt), visited the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda from 1 to 6 August. He was accompanied by the experts from France, New Zealand and Spain, as well as from Egypt, and by two members of the Group of Experts assisting the Committee. On 8 September, Aboulatta briefed the Committee members on his visit, sharing his view that it was well timed and had presented an opportunity to get a first-hand assessment from the concerned governments and other interlocutors on the effectiveness and impact of the sanctions regime.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council considered the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the DRC during its 33rd session in September (A/HRC/33/36). The report, covering June 2015 to May this year, concluded that the human rights situation was marked by a gradual shrinkage of the democratic space, together with a steady increase in attacks on fundamental freedoms. The intervention of state agents in suppressing political opponents and other civil society actors, including through the excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detentions, is particularly worrying with the approach of an important electoral period, the report said. The report recommended that the government guarantee the protection of the fundamental freedoms of all persons, including political opponents, journalists and other civil society actors; set up judicial mechanisms to combat impunity; and establish a national mechanism for the prevention of torture.
UNJHRO documented 393 human rights violations throughout the DRC in August compared to 383 in July, with state agents responsible for more than 63 percent of the violations.
A key issue for the Council is the political tension surrounding the electoral calendar and Kabila’s possible attempt to remain in power, and finding a way forward that is accepted by all stakeholders.
The continued violence by rebel groups against the population of North Kivu remains a serious threat to peace and security. This violence may worsen if political instability ensues in western DRC.
The Council could adopt a resolution or presidential statement:
- condemning human rights abuses related to the pre-election developments and urging the government to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are held as soon as possible;
- endorsing the provisional agreement reached on a new electoral calendar and calling on all opposition parties to enter immediately into the national dialogue to reach consensus on a new and viable electoral calendar; and
- threatening to impose sanctions on actors who destabilise the DRC by contributing to electoral violence or incitement to violence.
The Council (or a representative group of Council members) could also consider visiting the country during the run-up to the elections to take stock of the situation and deliver a strong political message to interlocutors.
Council members all have similar concerns over the political tensions surrounding the issue of elections. They fear potential destabilisation in the country—and consequently in the Great Lakes region—if presidential elections are not held as soon as is feasible. However, it may prove difficult to find a common approach in the Council to resolving the political stalemate and towards any solutions that are not agreeable to all stakeholders in the DRC. Some Council members view this issue mainly as an internal constitutional matter to be dealt with through local institutions and through dialogue among political actors, such as the national dialogue led by the government. Other Council members are of the view that addressing actions that seem to have been taken to override the constitutional order, along with human rights abuses related to the political process, is integral to solving the crisis, including the grievances of those who are boycotting the national dialogue.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|23 June 2016 S/RES/2293||This resolution renewed the DRC sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts.|
|30 March 2016 S/RES/2277||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of MONUSCO for a year.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|7 July 2016 S/PV.7732||This was a briefing by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|21 September 2016 SC/12528||This press statement expressed concern over violent clashes between protestors and security forces that took place on 19 September.|
|16 August 2016 SC/12477||This was a press statement condemning the killing of at least 50 civilians on 13 August in the area of Rwangoma village, North Kivu Province of the DRC, by suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces.|
|15 July 2016 SC/12449||This was a press statement stressing the crucial importance of a peaceful and credible electoral cycle, in accordance with the constitution, and expressed their concern at increased restrictions of the political space in the DRC.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|13 September 2016 SC/12516||This was a press release concerning the 8 September briefing of the chair of the DRC Sanctions Committee to the Committee members on his 1-6 August visit to the DRC|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Maman Sambo Sidikou (Niger)
MONUSCO Force Commander
Lieutenant General Derick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi (South Africa)
MONUSCO Size, Composition and Cost of Mission
Strength as of 31 August 2016: 16,735 troops (including 478 military observers and 1,407 police), 816 international civilian personnel, 2,654 local civilian staff and 364 UN volunteers.
Approved budget (1 July 2016-30 June 2017): $1.23 billion
Mission duration: July 2010 to present