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.
Copper and cobalt are the Democratic Republic of Congo’s two biggest exports. Artisanal miners often dig for these riches on lands licensed to large companies, sometimes prompting violent state intervention. The government should instead foster better ways for citizens to share in the mineral wealth.
Armed groups continued to target civilians in north-eastern Ituri and eastern North Kivu provinces, while tensions deepened within ruling coalition. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) launched several attacks on civilians, including ethnic Lendu. Notably, suspected CODECO combatants killed Lendu local official in town of Kpandroma 2 June, at least 16 civilians in Lendu village of Kpadinga next day, and at least 14 others in ethnic Hema villages of Lenga and Lodjo 10 and 17 June. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces continued to consolidate positions in border area between Ituri and North Kivu provinces, killing at least 30 civilians and four soldiers 4-22 June, mainly in Ituri’s Irumu territory. Kinshasa-Gombe High Court 20 June sentenced Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party, Vital Kamerhe, to 20 years of forced labour for role in embezzlement of $50mn of public funds. Kamerhe’s lawyers 24 June appealed decision. In following days, Kamerhe’s supporters clashed with police in South Kivu province’s capital Bukavu. Amid deepening tensions within ruling coalition, Constitutional Court 18 June confirmed destitution, voted by Parliament late May, of Tshisekedi’s ally and National Assembly First Vice-President Marc Kabund; Deputy PM and Justice Minister Celestin Tunda wa Kasende, ally of former President Kabila, also briefly arrested 27 June; senior figures from Kabila’s camp, including PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, expressed their anger and threatened to leave coalition govt. Amid persistent regional tensions, Tshisekedi and Ugandan President Museveni 12 June agreed on new information-sharing strategy to combat armed groups along common border. Ituri local officials 17 June accused South Sudan military of at least six incursions in area since May.
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.
[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.
President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.
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.