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
Main opposition leaders Felix Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi 18 Sept in New York endorsed “Manifeste du Citoyen Congolais” (Congolese Citizen’s Manifesto) which calls for organisation of large scale protests to force President Kabila to leave power by end of 2017; manifesto drafted late Aug and signed by Lucha and Filimbi youth movements and newly created group “Congolais Debout” (Congolese Stand Up). Govt 12 Sept announced start of voter registration in Kasai region, to last 90 days. Kabila 18 Sept in Kananga, capital of Kasai Central province opened three-day “peace and reconciliation” conference to “bring justice” to Kasais. Govt 19 Sept met EU, African Union, Southern African Development Community, International Organisation of La Francophonie, France and UK on margins of UN General Assembly in New York; participants agreed on need to implement fully 31 Dec 2016 agreement and create team of international experts to assist electoral commission. Kabila in 23 Sept address to UN General Assembly said electoral calendar was “forthcoming”. Security in Kasai Central remained volatile but no major incident in Sept. In N Kivu in east, Nyatura militia attacked Bwalanda and Mutanda in Rutshuru territory 7 Sept, three militiamen and two civilians killed; Mai Mai militiamen 23 Sept attacked Kanyatsi military position in Lubero territory, soldier and two assailants killed; Allied Democratic Forces militia clashed with UN mission (MONUSCO) near Beni 17 Sept, Tanzanian peacekeeper killed. In S Kivu, security forces 15 Sept near Kamanyola fired on Burundian refugees protesting arrest of four fellow refugees, killing 39; govt 17 Sept said it would open inquiry into incident that also killed one soldier. In S Kivu, Mai Mai Yakutumba militia and allied National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC) militia 27 Sept advanced to outskirts of Uvira, province’s second largest city; army and MONUSCO (both bringing in reinforcements) engaged in heavy fighting with attackers, including on Lake Tanganyika; Mai Mai coalition also spread to neighbouring Maniema and Tanganyika provinces. Nearly 120 inmates escaped Kabinda prison in Lomami province 3 Sept; 34 escaped Mwenga prison in S Kivu 25 Sept.
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