Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is planning a visiting mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bolivia, France and Equatorial Guinea will co-lead the mission.
Also in October, the Council expects to be briefed, most likely by the Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Leila Zerrougui, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO.
MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The electoral process in the DRC continues to be a major concern for the Council, despite recent positive developments. President Joseph Kabila, whose second and final term (under the country’s constitution) ended in December 2016, remains in office. According to an agreement reached between Kabila and the opposition on 31 December 2016, elections were to be held by the end of 2017, and Kabila was not to run for a third term or initiate amendments to the constitution. Citing logistical difficulties, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) eventually published a new electoral calendar for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018. The political tensions were exacerbated by Kabila’s failure to reveal his own intentions for a long time.
On 8 August, the last day to submit presidential candidates, Kabila’s party nominated former Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate. Kabila’s decision not to run was broadly welcomed internationally, including by Canada, Switzerland, the US, the AU, the EU and MONUSCO, according to the latest Secretary-General’s progress report on the electoral process of 28 August. Shadary is said to be a Kabila loyalist and is on the EU sanctions list for being “responsible for the recent arrests of activists and opposition members, as well as the disproportionate use of force since his appointment, such as the violent crackdown on members of the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) movement in Kongo Central, the repression in Kinshasa over January-February 2017 and the disproportionate use of force and violent repression in Kasai provinces”, according to the EU listing information.
Former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, whose conviction by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity was overturned on appeal on 8 June, also registered as a presidential candidate. The CENI declared him ineligible, however, on the grounds that the ICC had found him guilty of witness tampering. The Constitutional Court confirmed CENI’s decision on 19 September. Opposition parties rejected this decision and the disqualification of five other candidates (out of 25), arguing that it was politically motivated, an accusation the government has denied.
On 13 August, Council members issued a press statement welcoming the registration of the candidates for the presidential and legislative elections and Kabila’s “respect for his commitment to abide by the Congolese Constitution and the provisions of the 31 December 2016 political agreement”. Council members also reiterated the importance of creating the necessary electoral conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity.
The President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, Monseigneur Marcel Utembi, briefed the Council on 27 August. The spokesperson for Rien Sans Les Femmes (a local organisation promoting women’s participation in the electoral process), Solange Lwashiga Furaha, and Zerrougui were the other two briefers.
In his report on the electoral process, the Secretary-General noted with concern continued incidents of repression and intimidation of political activists and human rights defenders and other restrictions on the political space. The report called upon the authorities to lift the general ban on public demonstrations and uphold the rights of Congolese citizens to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. (The Council had called on the DRC to lift the ban in resolution 2409.) The report further noted that recent public statements by government officials and CENI have indicated that the CENI intends to hold the elections without MONUSCO’s support.
The eastern DRC continues to be plagued by the activities of rebel groups, with a disastrous effect on the population. According to UNHCR, there were 782,363 Congolese refugees in neighbouring countries on 31 July, mostly originating from the North and South Kivu regions, where there are many active rebel groups and militias, such as the Islamist Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Human rights groups say that the ADF and other militias have been responsible for killing more than 800 civilians in Beni territory, North Kivu, since October 2014. On 22 September, 18 people, including 14 civilians and four Congolese soldiers, were killed in an attack attributed to the ADF in Beni, North Kivu. The ADF is also believed to be responsible for the deadly attack on Tanzanian peacekeepers on 7 December 2017, in which 15 peacekeepers were killed, 53 were wounded, and one remains missing.
In a briefing on corruption and conflict on 10 September, Director of the Enough Project and Co-Founder of The Sentry John Prendergast said that the DRC exemplifies the nexus between corruption and mass atrocities. He noted that security forces and rebel groups use extreme violence against civilians and forced labour for the exploitation of natural resources in order to fund their activities.
Conflict in North Kivu has complicated efforts to eradicate Ebola in the DRC. After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the DRC over on 24 July, a new outbreak erupted in North Kivu in August. According to the WHO, by 23 September there had been 119 confirmed and 31 probable cases of Ebola, resulting in 100 deaths.
The DRC Sanctions Committee held a formal open meeting for member states on 27 July on the final report of the Group of Experts assisting the committee. The coordinator of the group presented the report, followed by comments by the representatives of the DRC, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.
On 31 August, the Group of Experts presented its programme of work for the next year.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 39th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an enhanced interactive dialogue on 25 September on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC, covering June 2017 to May (A/HRC/39/42). The report noted a deterioration of the human rights situation across the country with an overall increase of almost 20 percent in the number of human rights violations and abuses documented by the Joint Human Rights Office, compared to the previous reporting period. More than 63 percent of the violations were committed by state officials, primarily members of the DRC armed forces (FARDC) and officers of the Congolese national police, according to the report. A proliferation of militias and armed groups also contributed to the increase in abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, notably in North Kivu. A significant increase was also reported in violations of the civil and political rights of political opponents, journalists and civil society activists, including human rights defenders throughout the country related to elections scheduled for December 2018. At press time, the HRC was expected to vote on 28 September on a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the DRC.
Key Issues and Options
The primary political issue for the Council in the upcoming period is that the elections take place as scheduled and that they are free and fair. The visiting mission will be an opportunity to meet with key stakeholders and reiterate the Council’s previous messages, calling on the DRC to take action to guarantee that the electoral calendar is observed and that elections are inclusive and held in a safe environment conducive to participation in the political process by all.
Council members may also press the DRC government to take all necessary measures to ensure a peaceful transition of power. The Council may reiterate its call on all stakeholders to refrain from violence and to remain committed to the electoral process as the only way forward. The visit will also give Council members the opportunity to assess the status of logistical preparations and offer MONUSCO’s assistance to CENI.
The Council may choose to issue a presidential or press statement to reinforce the positions taken during the visit.
Additionally, the Council can utilise the sanctions regime by amending the listing criteria to include acts that hinder a free and fair electoral process and sanction actors who undermine the electoral process.
Council and Wider Dynamics
All Council members remain concerned about the ongoing political crisis and the dire security situation. There is consensus about the imperative of holding elections on 23 December without further delays.
The Council has visited the DRC 13 times, first in 2000 and most recently in November 2016. Since early 2018, there seems to have been agreement among members to visit the DRC during the electoral process. The visit was to have taken place in August, but disagreement over precise dates led members to agree to postpone it. It seems that in order to focus on political developments, the Council will only visit Kinshasa. During the visit, Council members are keen to maintain a united front by focusing on matters of consensus, such as the importance of timely elections and confidence-building measures between the government and the opposition.
Council members generally take a positive view of Kabila’s decision not to run for a third term. Given their varying perspectives on the nature of the political situation in the DRC, his decision also removes what could have been a bone of contention between Council members during their visit. Questions remain for some Council members, however, as to the influence Kabila may exert on key stakeholders in the run-up to and following the elections.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Kuwait chairs the DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 June 2018 S/RES/2424||This was a resolution renewing the DRC sanctions regime until 1 July 2019 and the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee until 1 August 2019.|
|27 March 2018 S/RES/2409||This was a resolution that renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019.|
|24 August 2018 S/2018/786||This was the Secretary-General’s 30-day update covering the period from 26 July to 24 August 2018 on political and technical progress towards the holding of elections in the DRC on 23 December 2018 and obstacles to the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement.|
|2 July 2018 S/2018/655||This was the Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|10 September 2018 S/PV.8346||This was a briefing on corruption and conflict in which the Director of the Enough Project and Co-Founder of The Sentry John Prendergast briefed the Council.|
|27 August 2018 S/PV.8331||The Council was briefed on the electoral process via video teleconference by Special Representative and head of MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui; President of the Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo Monsignor Marcel Utembi; and Solange Lwashiga Furaha, spokesperson for Rien Sans les Femme.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|12 September 2018 SC/13500||This was a press release on the 31 August meeting of the Sanctions Committee with the Group of Experts.|
|17 August 2018 SC/13458||This was a press release on the open meeting for member states held by the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee on 27 July.|