A decade of relative stability is at risk from rising polarisation over the delayed organisation of elections and President Joseph Kabila’s determination to stay in power beyond his constitutional time limit in December 2016. Crisis Group is alerting policymakers to the threat of popular violence, harsh crackdowns by the security forces and the continued threats posed by existing and emerging armed groups. Through advocacy based on field-researched analysis of national and local political dynamics and regional diplomacy, we seek to persuade domestic rivals to compromise in their disputes, to create a consensus among stakeholders on a transition to credible elections, and to persuade African and Western powers to coordinate their efforts to end the Congolese crisis.
En Ituri, depuis fin 2017, une nouvelle période de violence ravive les rivalités entre Hema et Lendu et affecte les autres communautés. Le gouvernement du président Tshisekedi devrait obtenir la reddition des milices lendu et encourager le forum quadripartite à mettre ce conflit d’ampleur régionale à son ordre du jour.
Armed groups continued to target civilians and humanitarian workers in east, and former President Kabila’s ambition to return to power strained ruling coalition. In eastern Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) 4 Sept entered provincial capital Bunia, before withdrawing same day after negotiations with local authorities. Unidentified armed group 8-10 Sept reportedly killed 58 Hutu civilians in Tchabi village, Irumu territory. In North and South Kivu provinces, also in east, civilians and humanitarian workers continued to come under attack. In North Kivu, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces 7-23 Sept reportedly killed at least 37 civilians in several villages in Beni territory. Mai Mai militia 16 Sept attacked convoy of World Food Program and NGO World Vision near Mbughavinywa locality, Lubero territory, killing one and abducting two others. In South Kivu, coalition of Mai Mai militias 8-9 Sept reportedly launched offensive against Twirwaneho militia, leaving at least ten dead in Minembwe area, Fizi territory. Unidentified gunmen 21 Sept kidnapped three staff of Irish NGO Concern in Kajembwe village, Uvira territory. In south-eastern Haut-Katanga province, suspected Mai Mai militias 25-26 Sept stormed second largest city Lubumbashi, killing at least two policemen and one soldier; govt forces repelled attack, reportedly killing 16 rebels. Meanwhile, Kabila’s allies hinted at presidential bid in 2023. Kabila’s ex-chief of staff and current party coordinator 14 Sept said President Tshisekedi agreed to make way for Kabila in 2023 in secret clause of power-sharing agreement; Tshisekedi’s party immediately denied allegations. For first time since Jan 2019, Kabila next day appeared in Senate, where he holds life seat granted to all former presidents; Environment Minister Claude Nyamugabo 18 Sept said “Joseph Kabila will return to power and we are working on it”. After Rwandan Ambassador to DRC Vincent Karega in Aug denied Rwandan involvement in violence in eastern DRC during 1998-2003 war, protesters 4 Sept gathered in Kinshasa to demand his departure and govt 7 Sept said Karega’s statement “is not likely to promote good relations between the DRC and Rwanda” (see Rwanda).
Copper and cobalt are the Democratic Republic of Congo’s two biggest exports. Artisanal miners often dig for these riches on lands licensed to large companies, sometimes prompting violent state intervention. The government should instead foster better ways for citizens to share in the mineral wealth.
Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.
The Security Council has an opening to rethink its approach to DR Congo with this month’s mandate renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission. The council should prioritise local conflict resolution and bolstering President Tshisekedi’s efforts to improve regional relations to combat over 100 armed groups ravaging the east.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
The ICC’s acquittal of Jean-Pierre Bemba comes at a critical point in DR Congo elections. President Kabila and his opponents will have to recalibrate strategies ahead of Bemba’s likely return. Outside powers should keep pressing Kabila to stand down and allow opposition candidates to participate.
Tshisekedi has been forced to cooperate with Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition and they have been in a standoff ever since.
[The Allied Democratic Forces in DR Congo] have a very brutal way of killing the civilians and they don’t differentiate. They kill women, children, men.
[President of DR Congo] Tshisekedi's swearing-in is often sold as selling out democracy in favor of stability. But it’s pragmatic and based on developments on the ground.
The [DR Congo] regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through.
We have a date [for DR Congo's presidential election], and it is technically feasible to organise [them] for the end of next year. Whether it is politically realistic is another question.
There is evident concern of growing instability and a frustration [in DR Congo] at the political blockage that is fueling popular frustration and the spread of violence in the country.
President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.
On 20 May prominent opposition leader and businessman Moïse Katumbi returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo from exile. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Deputy Project Director for Central Africa Nelleke van de Walle discusses the possible impact on Congolese politics, five months after Felix Tshisekedi’s controversial election as president.