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.
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.
Electoral commission (CENI) 5 Nov published electoral calendar scheduling national (presidential and legislative) and provincial polls for 23 Dec 2018, leading to swearing in of elected president in Jan 2019, over a year after deadline in 31 Dec 2016 agreement. Opposition and civil society unanimously rejected calendar. African Union 7 Nov, Catholic Church 24 Nov and UN Security Council 28 Nov insisted on ensuring no further postponements. Catholic Church 20 Nov published initial findings of voter registration assessment, identifying irregularities including double registration of voters, registration of minors, and registration in return for cash. Govt 20 Nov tabled in parliament amended electoral law; proposed draft stipulates that each constituency’s number of seats is to be based solely on number of registered voters, includes threshold percentage of votes party list must win in order to get any seats at national and provincial levels, and measure to restrict MPs leaving party to stand as independents or join other parties. Opposition coalition Rassemblement and civil society called for national strike, held on 15 Nov with limited adherence; protest-related violence reported in Goma in east and Lubumbashi in south east. Opposition staged additional protests in Beni, North Kivu 21 Nov and Kinshasa 28 Nov. Opposition’s call for protests went relatively unheeded in several cities 30 Nov, police dispersed protestors with tear gas and arrested two opposition leaders. Govt 20 Nov submitted for parliamentary approval 2018 budget of nearly $6bn, with 8.8% reserved for elections. On security front, situation remained volatile in Central Kasai, where voter registration continued. In North Kivu, presumed Allied Democratic Forces militia clashed with military throughout month mostly east and north east of Beni; other armed group activity reported in Lubero, Masisi and Rutshuru territories. In South Kivu, govt forces fought with Mai Mai-Yakutumba coalition for control of Kilembwe, Fizi territory 19-20 Nov, at least one killed; army 28 Nov regained control of Kilembwe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Political uncertainty and increasing polarisation between government and opposition, combined with escalating violence in many provinces, have set the DRC on a dangerous trajectory. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to denounce attempts by the DRC government to further delay the polls and offer technical electoral support to the Electoral Commission.
Depuis 2015, des tensions parcourent l’ex-province du Katanga, en RDC. Le mécontentement envers Kinshasa gagne du terrain face aux manœuvres politiques et à une situation économique dégradée, tandis que la région est un enjeu majeur pour le président Kabila, déterminé à se maintenir au pouvoir.
Six months into research fellowships made possible by Canadian philanthropist and Crisis Group Trustee Frank Giustra, we catch up with three young experts now working with our Europe, Africa and Middle East teams. Here we interview Philippe Kadima Cintu, who is focusing on his own country, DR Congo.