The DRC saw its first peaceful transition of power since independence after the December 2018 general elections, despite widespread reports of vote rigging. Since 2020, President Félix Tshisekedi has taken steps to consolidate his authority and to diminish the influence of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who has commanded loyalty throughout the security services and continued to control state institutions and revenue streams since stepping down. But even as he promises change, Tshisekedi has inherited a system of violent kleptocracy and risks repeating his predecessors’ errors. There are already signs he may be taking a more repressive turn. Meanwhile, the country experiences instability in the east and continued threats by armed groups. Crisis Group aims to alert policymakers to the risk of a return to violence if domestic rivals fail to compromise in their disputes, especially since politicians are already gearing up for the 2023 elections.
Après des mois de manœuvres politiques, le président Félix Tshisekedi s’est affranchi de son prédécesseur, Joseph Kabila et, à la suite de l’investiture d’un nouveau gouvernement issu de sa nouvelle majorité, il détient désormais l’effectivité du pouvoir. Dans ce Q&A, l’expert de Crisis Group Onesphore Sematumba explique que les difficultés ne semblent pourtant pas écartées.
Amid ongoing political tensions, President Tshisekedi visited eastern region apologising for past human rights violations and criticising role of army and other institutions. Tshisekedi 12 June toured eastern provinces, which have been under martial law since late April, asked local population for forgiveness for human rights violations committed by security forces and armed groups and promised to prosecute those responsible for abuses; 20 June described army as “mafia” and denounced senators who 15 June voted against lifting immunity of Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo, PM under former President Kabila, accused of embezzlement of public funds. Meanwhile, armed violence continued. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 12 June clashed with armed forces in Ikpa-Bura locality, Djugu territory, reportedly leaving at least 11 CODECO militants and three soldiers dead; CODECO same day killed five in Guu village, also Djugu. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 25 June reportedly killed four and kidnapped several others between Boga and Bukiringi villages, and 27 June killed 14 civilians in Manzobe locality, all Irumu territory. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, ADF 4 June killed two in Ntoma village, and 10 June abducted dozens from Kisanga and Livano villages. In Beni town, authorities 27 June implemented curfew after several bombings 26-27 June reportedly injured two civilians. UN Group of Experts on DRC 10 June said they were unable to find “conclusive evidence of ISIL [Islamic State] command and control over ADF operations, nor of ISIL direct support” and said acts committed by armed forces in Ituri’s Djugu and Irumu territories “may constitute war crimes”. Meanwhile, following May confirmation of Tshisekedi’s former Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe’s prison sentence for embezzlement, his party Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) 10 June suspended its participation in Tshisekedi-allied Cap for Change (CACH) coalition; also called on 16 UNC deputies to suspend their activities in Sacred Union, Tshisekedi’s new majority coalition. Kamerhe’s conviction along with Senate’s vote against lifting Matata’s immunity could affect fragile coalition.
En Ituri, depuis fin 2017, une nouvelle période de violence ravive les rivalités entre Hema et Lendu et affecte les autres communautés. Le gouvernement du président Tshisekedi devrait obtenir la reddition des milices lendu et encourager le forum quadripartite à mettre ce conflit d’ampleur régionale à son ordre du jour.
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.
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.
Tshisekedi has been forced to cooperate with Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition and they have been in a standoff ever since.
[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.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report "Mineral Concessions: Avoiding Conflict in DR Congo’s Mining Heartland".
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.