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.
As election preparations in the Democratic Republic of Congo proceed, President Joseph Kabila has announced he will not run for re-election. He may hope this important move will relieve outside pressure for free and fair elections. International actors should keep up the scrutiny.
Violence could escalate or break out in new areas around 23 Dec general elections; in Nov opposition failed to unite behind single candidate and armed group violence continued in east. Seven opposition leaders created Lamuka coalition in Geneva 11 Nov, strongly criticising voters’ roll and use of voting machines, agreeing that, if coalition wins, fresh elections would be held after two years in which members Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi could run, and naming Martin Fayulu as opposition’s single presidential candidate. Next day, two main opposition candidates, Felix Tshisekedi and subsequently Vital Kamerhe, pulled out of agreement citing pressure from political bases. Latter two leaders formed alliance between their parties in Kenyan capital Nairobi 23 Nov, with Tshisekedi as its presidential candidate. Electoral commission 21 Nov opened month-long campaigning period. In North Kivu province in east, armed groups including Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) kept up attacks on civilians in north of province, preventing effective response to Ebola outbreak. Suspected ADF 5 Nov launched attacks on Mangboko, killing seven civilians, and Oicha, killing civilian. Assailants 10 Nov killed woman and kidnapped five others at Mayi-Moya, and killed six civilians in Beni 10-11 Nov. UN mission and army 13 Nov launched joint operation against ADF militants, seven peacekeepers and at least twelve soldiers killed. Suspected ADF attack on Oicha 15 Nov left five civilians dead. Shell hit house in Beni 16 Nov forcing sixteen World Health Organization staff to evacuate. ADF 18 Nov killed three travellers on road between Oicha and Eringeti. In Kasai province in centre, military operation against Kamuina Nsapu armed group killed seventeen militants 7 Nov. Three campaigners for member of ruling coalition disappeared, suspected killed, 17 Nov near Dibaya. Arrival in Kasai provinces of most of estimated 362,000 Congolese forcefully evicted from Angola by armed forces Oct-Nov put added strain on resources. In South Kivu province in east, Burundian military attacked bases of Burundian RED-TABARA rebels 1-2 Nov reportedly forcing them to flee; Burundi denied incursion. Congolese security forces arrested Burundian soldier at Sange and reportedly handed him over to Burundian army 6 Nov, and arrested three other Burundian soldiers for entering Lusenda refugee camp, which shelters Burundian refugees.
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.
In 2018, the African Union (AU) and its new Assembly Chairperson President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have the chance to push ahead with much-needed institutional reforms. But the AU must not lose focus on dire conflicts and defusing potential electoral violence.
President Kabila’s delaying tactics are holding hostage DR Congo’s political transition, while internal strife and government repression are weakening the opposition. Western and African actors need to coordinate their approach to the deepening crisis, support the advancement of democratic elections and encourage the opening of political space.
Angry demonstrations hit Kinshasa in September as President Kabila’s aim to stay in power beyond a 19 December constitutional deadline became clearer. Regional and international actors must use diplomatic and financial levers to bring about credible democratic elections and to reverse the DRC's worsening spiral of violence.
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.
We should not see [MONUSCO] as the force that can go in and stabilise the Kasai [in DR Congo]. It can, at least, stop government and militia forces committing human rights violations in impunity.
The ball is very much in [President] Kabila’s court now. The president [of DR Congo] has been more or less silent for the last three months so this would be a good time for him to speak out.
Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.
In an interview with ARD Africa Correspondant Alexander Göbel, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director Richard Moncrieff discusses DR Congo’s many crises and how the international community can deal with the country’s ongoing political blockage.
Originally published in Tagesschau
With no chance that DR Congo will hold elections as planned before the end of 2017, Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director, describes the political blockage that is fuelling popular frustration with politicians, the spread of violence, and a sense that the vast country is fraying at the edges. He argues that even if there is slippage in the election timetable, all sides must remain engaged over the long term to coordinate the preparation of both technical needs like ballot boxes and registration lists and also keep up pressure for the opening up of political space for free campaigning.