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.
En Ituri, depuis fin 2017, une nouvelle période de violence ravive les rivalités entre Hema et Lendu et affecte les autres communautés. Le gouvernement du président Tshisekedi devrait obtenir la reddition des milices lendu et encourager le forum quadripartite à mettre ce conflit d’ampleur régionale à son ordre du jour.
Deadly violence intensified in eastern provinces with high toll on civilians, while tensions ran high within ruling coalition. In North Kivu province, armed group Allied Democratic Forces 1 and 28 July clashed with army in Beni territory, reportedly killing nine soldiers; two factions of militia Nduma Defence of Congo clashed 11-20 July in Walikale territory leaving at least 37 dead; armed group March 23 Movement 21 July attacked armed forces in Rutshuru territory, leaving at least three soldiers dead. In South Kivu province, coalition of militiamen 16 July attacked Kipupu village, Mwenga territory, reportedly leaving 18 civilians dead and over 200 missing. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) killed at least 31 civilians and seven members of security forces in Djugu territory 4-8 July. After President Tshisekedi early July sent delegation of former Lendu warlords to negotiate demobilisation with CODECO factions in Djugu, CODECO faction in Kambutso village 13 July stated willingness to disarm and start peace process with govt under conditions; other factions reportedly followed suit late July. Political tensions increased within ruling coalition between Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC). National Assembly, dominated by FFC, 2 July voted for FCC ally Ronsard Malonda as electoral commission president ahead of 2023 presidential election. After Catholic and Protestant churches 3 July urged Tshisekedi to reverse decision, and Tshisekedi supporters 9 July and opposition members 13 July protested in capital Kinshasa and other cities, Tshisekedi 17 July rejected Malonda’s appointment, citing lack of consensus. Deputy PM and Justice Minister Célestin Tunda ya Katende, at centre of tension between FCC and Tshisekedi since June, resigned 11 July. Head of Constitutional Court, under U.S. sanctions for alleged corruption and obstruction of democracy during 2018 elections, resigned 6 July. Tshisekedi 17 July appointed three new Constitutional Court judges. After 10 July meeting with top army command, Tshisekedi 17 July carried out major army reshuffle, sidelining some pro-Kabila generals, notably Army Inspector General John Numbi.
Copper and cobalt are the Democratic Republic of Congo’s two biggest exports. Artisanal miners often dig for these riches on lands licensed to large companies, sometimes prompting violent state intervention. The government should instead foster better ways for citizens to share in the mineral wealth.
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.
Tshisekedi has been forced to cooperate with Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition and they have been in a standoff ever since.
[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.
President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.
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.