Adoption of a Presidential Statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
This afternoon (4 January), the Security Council is set to adopt a presidential statement welcoming the 31 December 2016 agreement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) government and opposition groups on the electoral process.
The agreement was a last-ditch effort to address the political crisis precipitated by President Joseph Kabila remaining in power beyond the conclusion of his second and – according to the Constitution—final term, which was supposed to end on 19 December 2016. The DRC elections had been scheduled for 27 November 2016, but delays in the electoral process led to deepening suspicion among large sectors of the general population that Kabila intended to stay in office beyond the end of his second term.
Anticipating protests and possible violence, large numbers of police and military were deployed in the cities and people stayed home on 19 December 2016. Opposition coalition leader Etienne Tshisekedi urged people on 20 December to resist the “illegitimate regime” by peaceful means. However in a press release on 23 December, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that at least 40 people had been killed during protests since 19 December, 107 had been injured, and 460 opposition activists had been arrested throughout the country.
A previous agreement reached on 18 October 2016, under the auspices of an AU facilitator, between participants in the “national dialogue” on elections had scheduled provincial, parliamentary and presidential elections for April 2018, with Kabila remaining in office until the installation of a newly elected president, and a prime minister from the opposition being appointed in the interim. The possibility of Kabila running in the elections was not addressed in this agreement. This national dialogue between the government and opposition groups was boycotted by several of the main opposition groups, which in June 2016 formed a coalition called “Rassemblement”. The October agreement received mixed reactions: the subregional organisations expressed support for it as a way forward, but there was criticism over the stipulation that the elections would be postponed by more than a year and a half, and that nowhere in the agreement was it clear that Kabila would not be a candidate in the elections. Council members were also split in their views on this agreement.
The new agreement was reached as a result of a mediation led by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) to try and find a consensus solution to resolve the political crisis. Under the new agreement, Kabila will stay in power until elections are held by the end of 2017. During this period, a “National Council for Overseeing the Electoral Agreement and Process (CNSAP)” will be set up, headed by Tshisekedi, and a new prime minister will be named from opposition ranks.
However, several aspects regarding the implementation of the agreement have yet to be clarified, including the composition of the CNSAP and the identity of the interim prime minister, as well as Kabila’s role in the implementation process. Moreover, ten pro-government representatives to the mediation refused to sign the agreement.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Maman Sambo Sidikou, welcomed the agreement, but noted that “it is necessary to safeguard political stability by implementing every point of this new political roadmap”. Sidikou is scheduled to brief the Council on 11 January.
France circulated the draft presidential statement to Council members on Monday evening (2 January). Though some Council members questioned the timing of the statement at first hesitant as several details of the agreement reached remained unclear, in the end there was consensus that the Council should make a statement in support of the political breakthrough. In order to avoid the Council being divided over other issues regarding the situation in the DRC, France decided to keep the draft short and narrowly focused on the agreement reached and its implementation.
The draft statement welcomes the signing of the agreement and calls for its swift implementation in accordance with the Congolese Constitution “in order to organise peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely presidential, national and provincial legislative elections no later than December 2017, leading to a peaceful transfer of power”. Despite the divergent views in the Council on the value of the 18 October agreement, at the suggestion of Egypt and in order to acknowledge AU political efforts, the draft text states that the new agreement follows the former agreement.
It addresses the unresolved aspects of the agreement by calling on all actors to swiftly resolve all pending issues, especially the practical modalities for “inclusive management of the executive” during the electoral period. It further encourages the political parties which did not sign the agreement to do so.
Finally, the draft text expresses the Council’s commitment to support the implementation of the agreement in close cooperation with the AU, and its determination to continue to closely follow the situation in the DRC, in particular the respect of human rights, security conditions, and the efforts to successfully conclude the electoral process.
This draft presidential statement follows an attempt by France in late December 2016 to get agreement on a draft press statement supporting the mediation and condemning human rights violations by the government following the escalation of violence after 19 December. Some Council members had doubts about the utility of such a statement while the CENCO mediation was ongoing. As divisions between Council members regarding the assessment of the situation persisted and it became apparent that adopting a strong statement was not then possible, France decided not to pursue the press statement before the CENCO mediation concluded.