Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In January 2019, the Council will monitor closely the political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after the elections, at press time scheduled for 30 December 2018.
The Council will also 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 and the most recent developments. MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The current electoral process in the DRC has been a major issue of concern for the last few years. The presidential, legislative and provincial elections were supposed to take place before the end of 2016, when President Joseph Kabila’s second and final term (under the country’s constitution) expired. According to an agreement reached between Kabila and the opposition on 31 December 2016, elections were then 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, in November 2017, setting the elections for 23 December 2018.
Political tensions were exacerbated by Kabila’s failure to reveal his own intentions until August 2018. 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. Shadary, said to be a Kabila loyalist, is on the EU sanctions list for obstructing the DRC’s current electoral process and for violent crackdowns against protesters in Kinshasa in 2017. The EU renewed the sanctions on Shadary on 10 December 2018.
On 11 November 2018, a coalition of the seven main opposition parties announced their support for a single candidate, Martin Fayulu of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development Party (ECIDE). The next day, however, Felix Tshisekedi, head of the largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, broke away from the agreement and retained his candidature.
In his report on the electoral process, the Secretary-General said that restrictions on democratic space continued, noting that the authorities banned several public events and that cases of arbitrary arrests and intimidation were reported, as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and the press. On 13 November 2018, Zerrougui briefed the Council along with Joséphine Mbela of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice, a non-governmental human rights and rule of law organisation. Zerrougui noted that much progress had to be made to create an environment conducive to credible elections. She also cautioned that in many parts of the DRC, the vote would take place in a volatile security environment. She expressed particular concern over the situation in Beni, where civilians, MONUSCO and the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) are regularly targeted by the Ugandan Islamist rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Council members issued a press statement on 21 November urging all parties to engage peacefully and constructively in the electoral process in order to ensure transparent, peaceful and credible elections.
Election-related violence continued in different parts of the country. On 12 December 2018, two Fayulu supporters were killed and 43 injured in clashes with police at a rally in Lubumbashi. Three people at a Fayulu rally in eastern DRC were killed the following day when the police fired live rounds, according to witnesses.
On 13 December 2018, a fire at an election commission warehouse in Kinshasa destroyed ballot papers and about 80 percent of the voting machines due to be used in Kinshasa. This first use of machines in the DRC has been a matter of controversy, raising concerns about logistical difficulties and possible manipulation. Zerrougui updated Council members on recent political developments under “any other business” on 17 December. Afterwards Council members issued a press statement, expressing concern over recent incidents, which have resulted in loss of life and significant damage. They urged all stakeholders to refrain from violence and to ensure that the elections take place with the requisite conditions of transparency and credibility.
On 20 December, the CENI announced the postponement of the elections to 30 December 2018, citing the need to provide for the missing ballot papers destroyed in the fire. Several opposition leaders decried the postponement as another stalling tactic by the government, with both the government and opposition figures accusing each other of setting the fire. Council members were updated on the latest political developments under “any other business” by Zerrougui on 21 December. They issued a press statement the following day, expressing their hope that the delay will allow for “favourable conditions for the Congolese people to express themselves freely on the 30 December”.
Eastern DRC continues to be plagued by the activities of rebel groups, with a disastrous effect on the population. According to the recent midterm report of the Group of Experts assisting the DRC Sanctions Committee, 200 civilians and 125 FARDC soldiers were killed by armed groups in North Kivu in 2018. Council members issued a press statement on 15 November 2018, condemning the killing of seven MONUSCO peacekeepers and at least 12 members of the FARDC in North Kivu during anti-ADF operations that day. On 7 December, 17 people were killed in two ADF attacks in Beni, North Kivu. On 24 December, at least four civilians and one FARDC soldier were killed in a suspected ADF attack in Beni.
Conflict in North Kivu has complicated efforts to eradicate Ebola in the DRC. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there had been 512 confirmed and 48 probable cases of Ebola as at 19 December 2018 in the current outbreak in North Kivu, resulting in 336 deaths. Of serious concern is the spread of the virus to Butembo, a city with a population of over one million. On 30 October 2018, the Council adopted resolution 2439, recognising the negative impact of violence in Ebola-affected areas, urging all parties in the DRC to ensure immediate and unhindered access for humanitarian and medical personnel, and recalling that their equipment and medical facilities are protected under international law.
The Coordinator of the Group of Experts presented the group’s midterm report to the DRC Sanctions Committee on 6 December 2018. In addition to the violence in North Kivu mentioned above, the report documents continued illicit trade in natural resources, mainly gold and the so-called “three Ts” (tin, tantalum, and tungsten) by armed groups and FARDC elements.
Also on 6 December, FARDC colonel Jean de Dieu Mambweni was arrested in connection with the killing of two members of the Group of Experts, Zaida Catalán (Chile/Sweden) and Michael Sharp (US), in Kasai in March 2017. Mambweni is suspected of conspiring with the main suspect, Jean Bosco Mukanda, a local militia leader. The head of the team deployed by the Secretary-General to assist national authorities in the investigation, Robert Petit, updated Council members’ experts informally on the investigation on 17 December 2018.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 14 December 2018, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement expressing deep concern over violence at opposition rallies in at least three provinces ahead of the presidential elections, including reports that security forces used excessive force and live ammunition. The High Commissioner called on the authorities to ensure that these incidents were investigated promptly and that “the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly—essential conditions for credible elections—are fully protected”. The High Commissioner also expressed concern over reports of the use of inflammatory speech by political leaders and of armed groups’ interference with election campaigning.
On 19 December, 2018, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC published a report on the deterioration of the human rights situation in North Kivu between January 2017 and October 2018, including documentation of hundreds of extrajudicial killings and cases of torture and sexual violence committed against civilians. The report states armed groups were responsible for around two-thirds of these violations, while government security forces accounted for the other third. The report also states that high insecurity and continuing violations of human rights could undermine the political rights of the population in the context of the upcoming elections.
Key Issues and Options
The primary political issue for the Council during this period is to monitor the electoral process and, if the elections take place on 30 December, to assess whether they were free and fair, were held in a safe environment conducive to participation in the political process by all, and yielded credible results. The Council will also need to monitor the impact of the elections on security in the east and stability in the west.
If elections take place on 30 December, the Council may wish to adopt an outcome document on the conduct of the election and remaining challenges, and reacting to any developments on the ground. Additionally, the Council can deploy the sanctions regime, if necessary, against spoilers of the political process both during and after the elections.
Aside from the electoral process, a main issue for the Council will continue to be the security situation in the east and protection of civilians. With the electoral period potentially coming to an end, the Council may ask the Secretary-General to assess if and how MONUSCO should adapt its posture to enhance security.
Council and Wider Dynamics
During the last year, there was consensus among Council members about the imperative of holding elections on 23 December 2018 without further delays. The delay until 30 December has added to the existing concerns over whether the overdue elections will, in fact, take place and about the credibility of the process. There is also an understanding that, even if elections take place on 30 December as scheduled at press time or soon after, the Council should remain focused on political developments during the post-electoral period to support an orderly transition and avoid regression.
All Council members remain concerned about the security situation, which remains dire notwithstanding the political developments. The elections and transition of power have been identified by some, such as the US, as a watershed moment for the DRC, stressing that resolution 2409 requests the Secretary-General to follow up on this issue after “the successful holding of elections and sustainable progress towards reducing the threat posed by armed groups” with the development of an exit strategy for MONUSCO. Other Council members have stressed that regardless of the electoral process, MONUSCO’s main task, the protection of civilians, will continue to be critical and that the mission’s closure without improvements in the security situation would be premature. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that after elections are held, and Kabila is no longer in power, there is a need to reassess implications for MONUSCO’s mandate.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Kuwait chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions
|30 October 2018S/RES/2439
|The Council adopted unanimously a resolution on Ebola in the DRC.
|29 June 2018S/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 2018S/RES/2409
|This was a resolution that renewed MONUSCO’s mandate until 31 March 2019.
|29 October 2018S/2018/977
|This letter transmitted the 30-day update, covering the period from 29 September to 26 October, on political and technical progress towards the holding of elections on 23 December 2018.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|13 November 2018S/PV.8397
|This was a briefing from the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui, and Josephine Mbela of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice, on the situation in the DRC.
|Security Council Press Statements
|22 December 2018SC/13648
|This was on the delay of elections in the DRC to 30 December.
|18 December 2018SC/13632
|Council members expressed their “conviction that the elections of 23 December 2018, as an expression of the sovereignty of the people and Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, constitute a historic opportunity for the first democratic and peaceful transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the consolidation of stability in the country and the creation of the conditions for its development.”
|21 November 2018SC/13599
|This was a press statement on the electoral process in the DRC.
|15 November 2018SC/13583
|This was a a press statement condemning the killing of seven MONUSCO peacekeepers in North Kivu.