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.
In 2018, the African Union (AU) and its new Assembly Chairperson President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have the chance to push ahead with much-needed institutional reforms. But the AU must not lose focus on dire conflicts and defusing potential electoral violence.
Crackdown by security forces on anti-govt protests led by Catholic Church-affiliated Comité Laïc de Coordination 25 Feb left two people dead, one in Kinshasa and one in Mbandaka, capital of Equateur province in north west. Platform of protestant churches (ECC) 19 Feb reaffirmed support for elections and electoral commission. Catholic bishops concluded congress 15-17 Feb expressing concerns over violent repression of protests and increased insecurity, while demanding full implementation of Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement and international certification of new electronic voting machines. Conflict between Hema and Lendu communities escalated in Dungu area, Ituri province leaving 60 to 100 people dead in 2018 and forcing some 27,000 people to flee to Uganda mid-Feb; govt and UN mission (MONUSCO) reinforced their presence in area. Security forces repelled attack by alleged Kamuina Nsapu militants in Lombelu, Kasai Central province in centre 26 Feb, clash reportedly left one soldier and fourteen others dead. Army 19 Feb captured camp of armed group Allied Democratic Forces and killed one commander in Beni area, North Kivu. Clashes between ethnic Hutu on one side and Nande and Hundu groups on other left sixteen civilians and seven militiamen dead in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu 25-28 Feb. Army 15 Feb reported killing 48 members of armed group Mai Mai Yakutumba in South Kivu province, forcing some combatants to flee to Burundi and recapturing large areas since launch of new offensive late Jan. After alleged bandits killed three people in separate incidents in Bukavu, South Kivu 15 Feb, residents next day launched large-scale protests against authorities for failing to counter growing insecurity. Rwanda requested investigation into incursion into Rwandan territory by Congolese army 13 Feb, during which three Congolese soldiers killed. Tanzanian authorities 2 Feb arrested and extradited to DRC self-proclaimed General John Tshibangu who threatened Congolese govt with armed uprising. Regional bloc Southern African Development Community 3 Feb said it would open liaison office in Kinshasa.
President Kabila’s delaying tactics are holding hostage DR Congo’s political transition, while internal strife and government repression are weakening the opposition. Western and African actors need to coordinate their approach to the deepening crisis, support the advancement of democratic elections and encourage the opening of political space.
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 [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.
[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.
Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.
In an interview with ARD Africa Correspondant Alexander Göbel, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director Richard Moncrieff discusses DR Congo’s many crises and how the international community can deal with the country’s ongoing political blockage.
Originally published in Tagesschau
With no chance that DR Congo will hold elections as planned before the end of 2017, Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director, describes the political blockage that is fuelling popular frustration with politicians, the spread of violence, and a sense that the vast country is fraying at the edges. He argues that even if there is slippage in the election timetable, all sides must remain engaged over the long term to coordinate the preparation of both technical needs like ballot boxes and registration lists and also keep up pressure for the opening up of political space for free campaigning.
Political uncertainty and increasing polarisation between government and opposition, combined with escalating violence in many provinces, have set the DRC on a dangerous trajectory. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to denounce attempts by the DRC government to further delay the polls and offer technical electoral support to the Electoral Commission.
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.