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.
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.
Originally published in Independent Online
As insecurity persisted in multiple areas, politico-religious movement in Kongo Central province and M23 rebels in east re-emerged. Death 1 Feb of Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of opposition party Union of Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and main opposition coalition Rassemblement, led to suspension of talks between ruling majority and opposition on implementation of 31 Dec 2016 agreement on arrangements until elections. Disagreement focused on PM nomination procedure: Rassemblement claimed Etienne Tshisekedi, in letter delivered to Kabila 20 Feb, proposed his son Felix for PM, while Kabila argued to Catholic Church (CENCO) that future Rassemblement leader should present him with list of candidates. Electoral commission (CENI) by late Feb had registered 15mn voters, having covered about half of national territory. In east, security situation remained volatile due to recurring ethnic violence and re-emergence of M23 rebels. In N Kivu province, ethnic Nande Mai Mai Mazembe militias attacked Hutu villages including Kikuku village 3 Feb, killing nine people, and Kyaghala village 18 Feb, killing at least 25; authorities 7 Feb arrested self-proclaimed leader of Mai Mai Corps du Christ militia in Butembo. Army clashed with M23 rebels 20-22 Feb close to Bunagana, Rutshuru territory, N Kivu, claimed it killed sixteen rebels; Ugandan army 23 Feb said it was holding 44 M23 rebels who fled clashes in camp at Kisoro in SW. In Ituri province, Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) militiamen attacked army position in Kaswara village, killing two soldiers. In Kasai Central province in centre, army clashed with Kamwina Nsapu militia 9 and 13 Feb in Tshimbulu village, Dibaya territory, killing 101 rebels; Kamwina Nsapu followers 16 Feb burnt down govt buildings and authorities’ private properties in Tshitadi village, near Kazumba town. In south, fighting between Pygmy and Bantu militias continued: Bantu militia 5 Feb attacked Mondé village, Tanganyika province, killing 30. In west, following clashes late Jan between security forces and Bundu Dia Mayala (BDM) and Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) politico-religious movements in Kongo Central province, security forces 13 Feb raided home of BDM leader MP Ne Mwando Nsemi in Kinshasa, killing at least four BDM followers but failing to arrest Nsemi; standoff at residence continued end-month.
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.
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.
[CENCO in DR Congo] wanted to give the impression to the international community and to the region that they had exploited all avenues to enlarge the agreement they concluded in October.
Conflict in the impoverished Kasai region was sparked by local grievances but has spread to reflect wider discontent, including frustration over the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis.
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.