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.
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.
Violence persisted in Ituri in north east and North Kivu province in east, where fighting could escalate in coming weeks as army ramps up major offensive against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In Ituri province, following late Sept announcement by leader of armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) that he was willing to lay down arms, he and some 500 CODECO fighters 6 Oct left their base and moved to near Jiba in Djugu territory with view to disarm. Despite ongoing peace talks with provincial authorities, CODECO continued to commit violent acts in Djugu territory: 13 Oct attacked armed forces leaving four dead; 25 Oct attacked two boats on Lake Albert leaving four dead. Security forces 26 Oct launched offensive against CODECO along Lake Albert. Clashes between Maï-Maï militia and armed forces 11 and 28 Oct left seventeen militiamen and three soldiers dead in Mambasa. In North Kivu province, armed groups Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 1-2 Oct attacked Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) militia in Rutshuru territory leaving three NDC-R and four civilians dead in several villages. ADF attacks in Beni territory 13 and 27 Oct left five civilians dead. Army 31 Oct said it had launched previous day major offensive against armed groups in Beni territory primarily ADF. In Lumumbashi in far south east, suspected Bakata Katanga militiamen and security forces clashed 11 Oct leaving at least five militiamen dead. Army chiefs of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania 24-25 Oct met in Goma to discuss potential joint military operations against armed groups in east. Plane carrying presidential staff 10 Oct crashed in Sankuru province killing all passengers; supporters of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party demonstrated in several cities and held party of former President Kabila responsible.
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.
[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.
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 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.
After postponing long-awaited elections, the Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission has announced a second delay in voting in some conflict-affected areas – until after a new president takes office. This decision disenfranchises 1.25 million Congolese and risks major unrest. The commission should rescind it.
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.