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 the years right after apartheid fell, South Africa was a leader in continental diplomacy, brokering peace accords and bolstering multilateral institutions. Its role subsequently diminished, but today it is well placed to make a positive difference in several trouble spots.
Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) extended its reach into Ituri province in east, leaving over 60 civilians dead in area, and tensions rose between President Tshisekedi and allies of former President Kabila and within Tshisekedi’s alliance. ADF for first time launched attacks in Ituri province, leaving at least 63 civilians dead 2-26 Feb; ADF raids on villages in Beni territory, North Kivu province left at least 51 civilians dead 7-17 Feb. In Ituri, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) attacks and clashes between CODECO and army 17-29 Feb left at least 34 civilians and seven rebels dead; armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) and army 19 Feb clashed in Sezabo village, leaving ten dead; govt and armed group Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) 28 Feb signed peace agreement. In North Kivu, local Maï-Maï militia commander and some 300 fighters 2 Feb surrendered near Goma; militia Nduma Defense of Congo and Maï-Maï Nyatura 3 Feb clashed in Kitso area leaving seventeen dead; suspected Maï-Maï Nyatura 5-6 Feb killed three civilians in Butshimula area; unidentified gunmen 20 Feb killed at least six soldiers in Mwaro village. In South Kivu province, clashes between Maï-Maï and Gumino armed groups 17-18 Feb reportedly left three dead. In Tanganyika province, Twa militiamen 20-29 Feb killed four in Nyunzu town. Former military intelligence chief and close ally of Kabila, General Delphin Kahimbi, 28 Feb died in unclear circumstances after he was reportedly suspended from duty over allegations that he had sought to destabilise country; Tshisekedi same day called for investigation. Authorities 12 Feb briefly arrested Kabila’s former intelligence chief and prohibited him from leaving country for illegally travelling on diplomatic passport. Tshisekedi 7 Feb replaced seven senior magistrates including allies of Kabila. Head of Tshisekedi’s party Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund 11 Feb accused Tshisekedi’s chief of staff and head of Union for the Congolese Nation, part of Tshisekedi’s alliance Heading for Change, of mismanaging 100-day emergency program launched in March 2019.
Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.
The Security Council has an opening to rethink its approach to DR Congo with this month’s mandate renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission. The council should prioritise local conflict resolution and bolstering President Tshisekedi’s efforts to improve regional relations to combat over 100 armed groups ravaging the east.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
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.
[The Allied Democratic Forces in DR Congo] have a very brutal way of killing the civilians and they don’t differentiate. They kill women, children, men.
[President of DR Congo] Tshisekedi's swearing-in is often sold as selling out democracy in favor of stability. But it’s pragmatic and based on developments on the ground.
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.
On 20 May prominent opposition leader and businessman Moïse Katumbi returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo from exile. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Deputy Project Director for Central Africa Nelleke van de Walle discusses the possible impact on Congolese politics, five months after Felix Tshisekedi’s controversial election as president.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
The DR Congo is facing a major political crisis over the 30 December election’s result. A recount would allow subsequent negotiations to take place on the basis of a clear understanding of who won.
The Democratic Republic of Congo awaits the official results of 30 December 2018 elections, amid hints that unofficial numbers show an opposition presidential candidate winning. Conflicting tallies could spark violence. Outside powers should stand together in urging calm and careful verification of the electoral outcome.