The DRC saw its first peaceful transition of power since independence after the December 2018 general elections, despite widespread reports of vote rigging. Since 2020, President Félix Tshisekedi has taken steps to consolidate his authority and to diminish the influence of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who has commanded loyalty throughout the security services and continued to control state institutions and revenue streams since stepping down. But even as he promises change, Tshisekedi has inherited a system of violent kleptocracy and risks repeating his predecessors’ errors. There are already signs he may be taking a more repressive turn. Meanwhile, the country experiences instability in the east and continued threats by armed groups. Crisis Group aims to alert policymakers to the risk of a return to violence if domestic rivals fail to compromise in their disputes, especially since politicians are already gearing up for the 2023 elections.
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.
In major show of force and after weeks of political tensions, President Tshisekedi announced end of ruling coalition; meanwhile armed group attacks continued in eastern provinces. President Tshisekedi 6 Dec announced end of ruling coalition with former President Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), vowed to seek new majority in parliament. Brawl next day erupted in parliament between pro-Tshisekedi and pro-Kabila MPs who rejected move as unconstitutional, leaving three injured, while police used tear gas to disperse Tshisekedi’s supporters gathered outside parliament. MPs 10 Dec voted to remove Kabila’s ally Jeannine Mabunda as head of National Assembly, first indication that Tshisekedi has managed to shift balance of power in his favour in FCC-dominated assembly. Immediately after vote, Industry Minister and FCC member Julien Paluku defected to Tshisekedi, urged fellow FCC member, PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, to resign to avoid no-confidence vote. Tshisekedi 31 Dec tasked Senator and FCC defector Bahati Lukwebo with identifying new majority. Tshisekedi also pursued efforts to reinforce his grip on army and police, meeting with several senior security officials throughout month. Meanwhile, violence continued in east. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces 6-22 Dec killed at least 40 civilians in multiple attacks, including at least 21 night of 11-12 Dec in Bolema area, Rwenzori sector. Unidentified gunmen 6 Dec killed eight civilians in North Kivu’s capital Goma. In Ituri province’s Djugu territory, suspected armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 7 Dec killed five civilians in Baijate village; CODECO 20 Dec clashed with armed forces in Muvramu village, leaving two civilians and one CODECO combatant dead; in joint attack, CODECO and Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) overnight 21-22 Dec killed three in Gbalana village. Elsewhere in Ituri, armed forces 16 Dec clashed with FPIC in Komanda town, Irumu territory, leaving eight militiamen and one soldier dead. In Tanganyika province, ethnic Twa militia 21 Dec killed one and injured several civilians in Kintu locality. UN Security Council 18 Dec renewed UN mission (MONUSCO) mandate for one year.
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.