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.
In the years right after apartheid fell, South Africa was a leader in continental diplomacy, brokering peace accords and bolstering multilateral institutions. Its role subsequently diminished, but today it is well placed to make a positive difference in several trouble spots.
Govt forces clashed with armed groups Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) in north-eastern Ituri province and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern North Kivu province, while President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila met to reduce tensions in ruling coalition. In Ituri, clashes between security forces and CODECO militants 1, 14, 25 March killed around 30 rebels and five soldiers in Djugu territory. Suspected CODECO fighters 15 March killed fifteen members of Hema community in several villages in Djugu territory; 30 March reportedly killed police officer and civilian in Kabakaba locality. Military 31 March killed at least six Maï-Maï militiamen in Ituri’s Mambasa territory. Justice officials 15 March released former Union of Congolese Patriots warlord Thomas Lubanga after completion of fourteen-year sentence for recruiting child soldiers during 1999-2003 Ituri war. Authorities 16 March released former leader of Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) after Feb peace agreement between FRPI and govt. In North Kivu, security forces 6 March clashed with armed group ADF in Beni territory; thirteen rebels and four soldiers reportedly killed. Military 20-24 March killed 62 militants and lost fourteen soldiers in further clashes with ADF in Beni. In Lualaba province in south, clashes between military and local Maï-Maï militia 28 March left over 30 rebels and one soldier dead. Defence and security officials met with counterparts from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda 11 March in Goma to assess information sharing mechanisms to tackle regional insecurity in eastern DRC. Tshisekedi 12 March met Kabila to ease tensions in ruling coalition; both agreed to prioritise competence and morality over political affiliations in administrative appointments and to cease travel restrictions on officials from Kabila’s Common Front for Congo coalition. In response to spread of COVID-19, Tshisekedi 18 March suspended most international flights and banned gatherings; UN mission (MONUSCO) 19 March announced isolation of all peacekeepers arriving from COVID-19-affected countries and suspension of troop rotations.
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.
A moment of waning international attention has led some in President Kabila’s camp to revisit the idea of an internationally-opposed third presidential term. African and Western leaders must maintain unity, redouble efforts to dissuade Kabila from pursuing this course and ensure preparations for elections in 2018 continue apace.
Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been postponed since December 2016, but now seem to be slated for the end of the year. All parties should work to ensure credible polls, the best hope for a peaceful transfer of power.
[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.
[A statement by former African leaders could bridge] the gap between sitting African leaders, who are putting little pressure on Kabila, and the west, who are imposing sanctions and demanding an election.
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.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
The DR Congo is facing a major political crisis over the 30 December election’s result. A recount would allow subsequent negotiations to take place on the basis of a clear understanding of who won.
The Democratic Republic of Congo awaits the official results of 30 December 2018 elections, amid hints that unofficial numbers show an opposition presidential candidate winning. Conflicting tallies could spark violence. Outside powers should stand together in urging calm and careful verification of the electoral outcome.