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.
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.
Originally published in Independent Online
Following 31 Dec agreement between presidential majority and opposition on transitional arrangements after end of President Kabila’s second term (constitutionally his last), parties continued talks but failed to agree by 28 Jan deadline set by mediator Catholic Church (CENCO) on how to implement deal; talks extended for at least one week. Contentious issues included appointment of future PM, roles of political groups in future govt and CENCO’s mediation role. In Haut-Katanga province in SE, violence and corruption reportedly affected voter registration during month. Armed group violence continued in parts of east, north, centre and south. In east, Hutu militia 15 Jan attacked Kyaghala, S Kivu province killing six people. UN mission (MONUSCO) 12 Jan warned new waves of fighters and refugees were crossing into NE DRC from S Sudan. Govt 15 Jan said army (FARDC) repelled incursion at Ishasha, N Kivu by ex-M23 militiamen encamped in Uganda since 2013 defeat; Ugandan govt 19 Jan reportedly arrested 100 ex-M23 fighters as they tried to cross into DRC. In north, FARDC 8 Jan pushed Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, originally from Uganda, from Nakolongbo, Bas-Uélé province. In centre, dozens reportedly killed including five civilians in week of clashes early Jan between security forces and Kamwina Nsapu militia in Tshimbulu, Kananga, Kalumba-Gare and Bunkonde villages in Kasai-Central province. MONUSCO 12 Jan deployed some 100 soldiers to Kananga to protect civilians, UN staff and airport. Incidents in Kananga 26-27 Jan hampered arrival of PM Badibanga at head of govt delegation. In south, clashes between Pygmy and Bantu militias in Tanganyika province continued; Pygmy militias 4-5 Jan carried out attacks in Mpyana, Kakelwa and Manono killing nineteen; further clashes 13 Jan killed 24.
As the regime keeps delaying an encounter with the electorate, growing tensions and state repression in Congo’s resource-rich Katanga may be the precursor of a violent escalation. Without a credible national dialogue and better working relations between the central government and new provinces, the country could descend into a crisis reminiscent of the late 1990s.
With the 2016 presidential elections approaching, tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo is increasing. President Kabila is nearing the end of his second term and political manoeuvring within the government to create conditions for a third term is mobilising popular opposition, testing the country’s fragile democratisation and stability. International pressure is now vital to find a peaceful way forward.
A new consensus and strategy are urgently needed to tackle the numerous, brutal armed groups in eastern Congo and to save the February 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) in the Great Lakes region.
Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.
The Framework Agreement signed by the UN, African organisations and eleven countries and the deployment of an intervention brigade in North Kivu are positive steps, but conflicts in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo also require a bottom-up approach aimed at improving intercommunal relations and restoring peace at the local level.
There is a possibility of protests and emotional reaction, potentially violent [in DRC, following the death of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi]. No one has the popular legitimacy to take over.
What’s going on [in DR Congo] shows an implosion is inevitable because the political system is not set up to solve [disputes over the position of Prime Minister].
You have a disconnect [in DR Congo] between a very impoverished people and a political-social class that basically negotiates and cuts deals amongst themselves.
We’re heading for a big, slow-motion crisis. Why is [Joseph Kabila] refusing to go? For the sake of power? To protect the family business? Probably a bit of both.
[CENCO in DR Congo] wanted to give the impression to the international community and to the region that they had exploited all avenues to enlarge the agreement they concluded in October.
The arguments the government has given for not holding the election are rubbish. They’ve been doing everything in their power to ensure the election does not happen on time
The death of the veteran politician deprives the opposition of a well-known rallying figure. Without him, uncertainty and growing popular anger are likely to lead to more instability.
Originally published in African Arguments
Originally published in Jeune Afrique
At the heart of disenchantment with President Kabila’s government lie deep economic woes.
In this podcast, Crisis Group's Director of Communications and Outreach Hugh Pope and Central Africa Project Director Richard Moncrieff discuss the links between long-term tensions in the Katanga region and the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) linked to the constitutional and electoral deadline at the end of 2016.