Democratic Republic of the Congo
Expected Council Action
In February, the Council will continue to follow the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While no meeting was scheduled at press time, the Council may request to be briefed on the political situation and implementation of election benchmarks by the Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Leila Zerrougui.
MONUSCO’s mandate expires on 31 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
After being delayed since the end of 2016, presidential, legislative and provincial elections were held in most of the DRC on 30 December 2018. The exceptions were Beni, Butembo and Yumbi, where the government announced postponement until March due to concerns about Ebola and the security situation. The elections were held after a difficult campaign period, with violent clashes at rallies and a decrease in political space.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced results on 10 January. The provisional results showed opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, as the winner of the presidential election with 38.57 percent of the vote, ahead of rival opposition candidate Martin Fayulu of the Commitment for Citizenship and Development Party. Emmanuel Shadary, the candidate of current President Joseph Kabila’s party, Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie, placed third. At the same time, Kabila’s coalition, the Common Front for Congo, received a super-majority in the legislative elections: as many as 350 out of 500 seats.
Since the elections, significant tensions and contradictory statements from national, regional, and international stakeholders have added to the sense of uncertainty. Almost immediately after the election, CENI and the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), which deployed about 40,000 electoral observers, disagreed publicly on the election tallies. Several media organisations undertook independent analyses and have called the declared results fraudulent, naming Fayulu the clear winner.
The Council discussed the issue on 11 January. Members heard briefings from Zerrougui, CENI, CENCO, the AU’s permanent observer, and Zambia’s minister for foreign affairs as the representative of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). On 15 January, the Council released a press statement welcoming the peaceful holding of the elections, noted the announcement of provisional results by the CENI, and stressed the need for those concerned to take actions in line with electoral law and to preserve the generally peaceful climate.
In the wake of fraud allegations, both SADC and the AU held emergency meetings on 17 January. Both then released statements, but they differed. SADC called for all disagreements with results to be resolved in line with the DRC’s constitution and laws. The AU communiqué called for the DRC to halt any election announcements and said it would dispatch a high-level delegation to Kinshasa.
The situation evolved further after the DRC Constitutional Court confirmed CENI’s provisional results on 19 January. Fayulu continued to publicly contest the results. In response, both the AU and SADC released statements noting the decision by the Constitutional Court and calling for unity, peace, and stability. The AU decided to postpone the high-level delegation’s visit and will discuss the political situation in the DRC at a summit in February instead. The US State Department said on 23 January that it welcomed the certification of Tshisekedi as President, signalled commitment to working with the new government, and called on stakeholders to address reports of electoral irregularities. On 24 January, Tshisekedi was sworn in as president in a generally calm ceremony. On 30 January Council members received an update on political developments from Leila Zerrougui, who briefed in consultations under “any other business.”
As political developments unfolded, the security situation remained difficult. According to the 4 January report of the Secretary-General, armed groups committed violence in the east, the Force de Resistance Patriotique de l‘Ituri armed group remains active, and some parts of the Kasai region continue to face militia attacks. The Kasai problems were worsened by the return of an estimated 300,000 Congolese citizens expelled from Angola in October 2018, and up to 200 a day since that first wave. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of attacks on population centres. In Beni in October 2018, the local population held several protests to denounce violence against civilians and call for more protection from national security forces and MONUSCO.
The DRC Ebola epidemic is the second-largest known outbreak. Approximately 700 people have been reported as infected since last August, and over 400 have died. In December 2018, UNICEF said more than one-third of those infected were children. Tackling the outbreak has been made more difficult because of the poor security situation, continued use of rape as a tool of war, and distrust of health workers. In Marabo, Ituri province, violent protests erupted over a proposal to build an Ebola treatment centre, and rumours spread against the vaccination attempt of local high schoolers. Nevertheless, the vaccination campaign continues throughout the infected areas, and over 59,000 people have been vaccinated. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited affected areas over the New Year. WHO offices in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda have begun to increase preparedness and operational readiness because of the possibility of further spread. Regarding the humanitarian situation, the Secretary-General reported that the UN’s response was severely hampered because the appeal in 2018 was only 24 percent funded.
The 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee is scheduled to be held on 1 February to discuss the midterm report of the Group of Experts. The committee is tentatively discussing a visit to the DRC in the latter half of 2019.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 7 January, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, released a statement calling on the DRC government to restore internet services in the country after all primary telecommunications were shut down ahead of the announcement of the election results. “A general network shutdown is in clear violation of international law and cannot be justified by any means”, Kaye said. On 16 January, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement saying that according to allegations from credible sources, at least 890 people were killed between 16 and 18 December 2018 in four villages in Yumbi territory, Mai-Ndombe province, in the west of the country, apparently in clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities. According to the statement, most of the population of the affected villages has reportedly been displaced, including an estimated 16,000 people who sought refuge by crossing the Congo River into the Republic of Congo. The UN Human Rights Office and national judicial authorities have launched investigations into the incidents, the statement said. In March, the Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update and report on the DRC.
Key Issues and Options
Initially, the Security Council faced the question of how involved it should be in the dispute over the election results. Given that several media and civil society groups decried the elections as fraudulent, there was some expectation that the Council might issue a press statement or hold a meeting; with Tshisekedi’s inauguration, however, there seems to be less sense of urgency for immediate Council action. The Council is likely to follow developments closely and may issue a presidential or press statement once the new DRC government is formed.
An outstanding issue is the arrangements for the March vote by 1.25 million voters in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi where elections were postponed for security and Ebola-related reasons. The Council could hold a meeting in February to consider this matter.
The Council has remained engaged in following elections-related developments in the DRC, with two meetings and a press statement in January. Divisions surfaced in members’ reactions to the elections and claims of fraud. New member Belgium has long historical ties to the DRC as the former colonial power and appears to be taking a cautious yet prominent role, along with France as the traditional Council lead on the DRC. Both France and Belgium have publicly criticised the provisional results. However, on 22 January, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini met with AU members in Brussels and called for the new DRC president to be a unifying force. The EU members on the Council could therefore be expected to align their positions. Meanwhile, South Africa, joining China and Russia, views this as an internal and sovereign issue. South Africa has issued statements in favour of the formation of a DRC government as a result of the 2018 elections.
Some in the Council may look ahead to mandate renewal negotiations in March, particularly an eventual exit strategy for MONUSCO. MONUSCO and its predecessor MONUC have been in place since 1999. Events in the coming weeks, including the security situation in the east, are likely to have an impact on Council members’ thinking. The DRC government, under President Kabila, has called for preparations for MONUSCO’s exit. It remains to be seen how President Tshisekedi may act.
France is the penholder on the DRC, and Kuwait chairs the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DRC
|Security Council Resolutions|
|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.|
|4 January 2019S/2019/6||This was the Secretary-General’s report on MONUSCO.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|11 January 2019S/PV.8443||This was a briefing from the Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui; President of CENI Corneille Nangaa Yobeluo; Permanent Observer of the AU Fatima Kyari Mohammed; President of CENCO Monseigneur Marcel Utembi; and Joseph Malanji, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia and Chairperson of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation of SADC.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|15 January 2019SC/13663||This press statement noted the announcement by CENI of provisional results of the presidential and provincial elections, welcomed the subsequent peaceful and stable situation, and encouraged any disputes to be dealt with along legal channels.|
|22 December 2018SC/13648||This was on the delay of elections in the DRC to 30 December.|
|Security Council Letters|
|20 December 2018S/2018/1144||This was from the DRC government explaining the one-week election postponement.|