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.
The Catholic bishops of DR Congo have ended their mediation efforts between President Kabila and a deeply divided opposition. Amid a backdrop of worsening insecurity in the Kasai provinces, Kabila’s agreement to appoint a new prime minister could merely mark the beginning of more protracted in-fighting.
Originally published in Independent Online
President Kabila 7 April named as new PM Bruno Tshibala, former member of leading opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) but expelled in March for dissenting over party leadership. Main opposition coalition Rassemblement led by Felix Tshisekedi same day said Kabila violated Dec 2016 agreement by not appointing candidate selected by opposition. Rassemblement refused to take part in presidency-managed talks, 3 April staged countrywide strike and called for protest 10 April. Protest, banned by govt, attracted small numbers of people. EU, France, Belgium, U.S. and Catholic Church (CENCO) criticised Kabila’s failure to adhere to Dec 2016 agreement; govt 14 April suspended military cooperation with Belgium. African Union 15 April said it was ready to work with new govt but asked for more inclusiveness. Kamuina Nsapu insurgency continued in Kasai Central province in centre. Militia 8 April attacked Bakwa Tshibumba village, near provincial capital Mbuji Mayi, kidnapping five people and burning 50 houses; militia 12 April captured from army Kamako border post on DRC-Angola border; over 9,000 people fled fighting into Angola 1-21 April, bringing total number of refugees from Kasai Central to over 11,000. As demanded by Kamuina Nsapu family, govt 16 April handed over body of former chief killed Aug 2016. UN 19 April confirmed existence of at least seventeen additional mass graves in Kasai Central, bringing to 40 number of mass graves documented by UN in Kasai Central and Oriental since Aug 2016. In S Kivu in east, Mai Mai Blaise militia 1 April attacked Kalonge village, near provincial capital Bukavu; two militiamen killed. Four people killed 4 April in clashes between Hutu and Nande communities in Kishishe village, N Kivu. Mai Mai Nyatura and Rwandan Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 8 April attacked Rutshuru and Masisi towns, N Kivu. Fighting erupted 26 April between Mai Mai Nyatura militia and FDLR splinter group National Council for Renewal and Democracy (CNRD) for control of Bweru village, N Kivu, 29 people killed including at least eleven militants. In Munigi refugee camp near Goma, N Kivu, 100 S Sudanese rebels refusing repatriation 18 April took hostage sixteen UN staff, released them same day.
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.
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.
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.
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
At the heart of disenchantment with President Kabila’s government lie deep economic woes.