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.
As election preparations in the Democratic Republic of Congo proceed, President Joseph Kabila has announced he will not run for re-election. He may hope this important move will relieve outside pressure for free and fair elections. International actors should keep up the scrutiny.
Militia attacks escalated in and around Beni in east, sparking local protests and obstructing Ebola response, while political parties continued to debate core electoral issues, including use of voting machines, ahead of Dec general elections. In Beni territory, North Kivu province, armed assailants, most suspected to belong to Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group, upped attacks, leaving dozens of civilians and soldiers dead. Suspected ADF militants 4 Oct attacked army post, killing at least four soldiers and two civilians; ambushed car between Beni and Ituri province killing five people 9 Oct; attacked Beni city 20 Oct killing at least twelve people and abducting at least eight. Violence fuelled growing popular frustration: teachers went on strike, students protested, rioters 21 Oct set fire to govt buildings in Beni city. Violence and community protests in Beni complicated response to Ebola outbreak. Elsewhere, unidentified assailants killed at least 21 civilians near Rubaya, North Kivu 6 Oct. During 4-8 Oct visit, UN Security Council delegation called for consensus on voting machines and voter roll. Unidentified assailants night of 21-22 Oct attacked with grenades home of André-Alain Atundu, spokesperson of ruling coalition, nobody hurt. Govt cancelled opposition rally in Lubumbashi in south planned for 14 Oct. Seven major opposition platforms met in South Africa 23-25 Oct and said they would designate joint candidate by 15 Nov. Opposition held protests 26 Oct in several cities, including capital Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu against use of voting machines and calling for cleaning of voter roll; opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) of Félix Tshisekedi did not take part. Supreme Court 10 Oct suspended trial of exiled opposition leader Moïse Katumbi for alleged recruitment of mercenaries as judges refused to hear lawyers in absence of defendants. Tensions between govt and Angola rose after Angolan security forces and locals in Lucapa, Lunda Norte province in north east Angola 3-5 Oct assaulted and looted Congolese, forcing some 330,000 to flee across border into DR Congo, at least six killed (see Angola).
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.
A moment of waning international attention has led some in President Kabila’s camp to revisit the idea of an internationally-opposed third presidential term. African and Western leaders must maintain unity, redouble efforts to dissuade Kabila from pursuing this course and ensure preparations for elections in 2018 continue apace.
Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been postponed since December 2016, but now seem to be slated for the end of the year. All parties should work to ensure credible polls, the best hope for a peaceful transfer of power.
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.
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.
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.