DRC Briefing on the Electoral Process
On Monday (27 August), the Security Council will be briefed on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) via video-teleconference by Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) Leila Zerrougui; President of the Commission Électorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) Corneille Nangaa Yobeluo; President of the Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) Monsignor Marcel Utembi; and Solange Lwashiga Furaha, spokesperson for Rien Sans les Femme, a civil society movement working to ensure equal representation for women and men in decision-making at all levels in the DRC.
The meeting was requested by Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, France, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden and the US and is meant to focus on the electoral process in the DRC, which is scheduled to culminate on 23 December 2018. 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 that prevented the elections from being held on 5 November 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) published a new electoral calendar for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018.
Kabila’s failure to state clearly that he will not run has exacerbated political tensions. On 12 June, Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala said that Kabila would respect the constitution and not seek another term. Kabila was expected to address the issue in his state of the nation speech before parliament on 19 July; while voicing commitment to elections on 23 December, he did not clarify his own plans. Following the end of the voter registration period, between 25 July and 8 August, Kabila’s party, the Peoples’ Party for Reconciliation and Democracy, announced that its candidate for president will be former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, thus putting an end to speculation as to Kabila’s intentions. Shadary is known to be close to Kabila. He has been on the EU sanctions list since 29 May 2017, 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”.
Other notable presidential candidates are the head of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress and son of longtime opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi, Felix Tshisekedi; leader of the opposition Union for the Congolese Nation, Vital Kamerhe; and former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was convicted by the ICC in 2016 for war crimes and crimes against humanity (committed as the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo when his forces were involved in an attempted coup in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003). His verdict was overturned on appeal on 8 June, and he has returned to the DRC.
Council members are expecting Zerrougui to cover these major political developments. On 13 August, Council members issued a press statement (SC/13455), 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”. It further underlines the importance of all stakeholders’ commitment to the success of the electoral process, and to a peaceful transfer of power, in accordance with the Congolese Constitution and the 31 December 2016 agreement. Council members also reiterated the importance of creating the necessary electoral conditions of transparency, credibility and inclusivity. The Secretary-General’s latest report on the electoral process of 7 August (S/2018/762) notes the continued restriction of political activities and demonstrations by Congolese authorities. In addition, political parties and civil society activists continue to be denied their civil and political rights. Members may want more information on these restrictions and an assessment of whether they may worsen over the electoral period.
Members are likely to be interested in hearing from CENI president Yobeluo on how MONUSCO might be able to assist during the electoral process. The 13 August press statement encouraged the DRC and the CENI to ensure that any request to MONUSCO for logistical and technical support is made in timely fashion. Although MONUSCO is mandated in resolution 2409 to provide technical assistance and logistical support for the electoral process, in coordination with the Congolese authorities, the CENI has stated that it will not accept any assistance from MONUSCO, and the government has indicated that it is not open to having any special envoys from the outside observe the elections. These positions seem to be in line with the DRC government’s current position towards the UN and the international community with respect to the electoral process. In July it indicated that a planned visit by the Secretary-General would be “inopportune” and conveyed similar sentiments with respect to a visit planned by the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley. Thus, while welcoming Kabila’s decision to step down at the end of the electoral process, several Council members are concerned about the implications of these signals from the DRC government.
Ebola in the DRC
At the request of Sweden, on Tuesday (28 August), the Council will meet to discuss the current Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC. At press time, representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department for Peacekeeping Operations were expected to brief Council members.
The outbreak was first detected on 1 August in North Kivu, resulting in 63 deaths thus far, of which 36 were confirmed by lab tests, while 27 others were considered “probable” cases of Ebola. Council members will be interested to hear about the possible impacts of the outbreak in an unstable region where peacekeepers are also deployed. In addition, the WHO has expressed concerns that the dire security situation will hamper efforts to contain and address the outbreak.
A previous Ebola outbreak in Equateur province was declared over by the WHO on 24 July, after 42 days had passed since the last infected patient was released from care. According to the WHO, Ebola was first detected there on 4 April, an outbreak that led to 38 confirmed cases, including 33 deaths.