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.
While the presence of the UN peace operation MONUSCO in the DRC is crucial, it needs to adapt to the deepening crisis as violence escalates in parts of the country, and recognise President Kabila’s role in the country’s instability. The UN should use its forthcoming strategic review to adjust the mission to these challenges.
Originally published in Independent Online
Electoral commission (CENI) 7 July said elections will not take place in Dec 2017 as foreseen in 31 Dec 2016 agreement; Catholic Church (CENCO) 10 July said decision to postpone elections required consultation between govt, CENI and committee overseeing implementation of 31 Dec agreement (CNSA), while Felix Tshisekedi, leader of opposition coalition Rassemblement, 11 July said CENI had “declared war” on people. Govt 22 July appointed CNSA members and named Rassemblement dissident Joseph Olenghankoy as chair; opposition criticised Olenghankoy’s appointment. Rassemblement 22 July released six-month plan for mass mobilisation against Kabila and suggested short transitional period without him if elections do not take place by end-2017. Prime minister 7 July called on donors for financial assistance to ease “economic difficulties”, but IMF 12 July said release of funds conditional upon political environment improving. U.S. 11 July said it would place sanctions on whoever hinders organisation of elections. Govt 13 July sentenced Angolan President Dos Santos’ Congolese son-in-law and Kabila’s fierce critic Sindika Dokolo to one year prison for real estate fraud. UN mission (MONUSCO) 7 July said it would close five bases in N Kivu in east by 31 July. In N Kivu, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia 5 July kidnapped eighteen people in Beni, releasing them five days later; at least nine Mai Mai militiamen, two members of security forces and one civilian killed in clashes 5 and 11 July. Militias 8-11 July launched multiple attacks on army positions in Masisi, Rutshuru, Beni and Lubero territories in N Kivu. In S Kivu, army regained control of Fizi and Ishasa 5 July after five days of combat that killed at least two soldiers, nine Mai Mai and one civilian; in country’s fifth jailbreak in three months, some twenty prisoners escaped in attack on Bukavu’s central prison. In Kasai provinces, UN 4-7 July identified 38 more mass graves, bringing total to 80 in centre; suspected Kamuina Nsapu militiamen 9 July kidnapped 26, mostly civilians, in Lomami province. In south, intercommunity fighting continued.
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
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