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Democratic Republic of Congo

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. 

CrisisWatch Democratic Republic of Congo

Unchanged Situation

Armed group violence left over 100 civilians killed in east; meanwhile President Tshisekedi secured new majority in parliament amid ongoing political tensions. In Ituri province, clashes between military and armed group Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo early Jan reportedly left over two dozen dead on outskirts of provincial capital Bunia; suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 14 Jan killed 46 ethnic pygmies in Abembi Masini village, Irumu territory. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, ADF 31 Dec-4 Jan killed 48 civilians in Tingwe and Mwenda villages; armed forces 1 Jan clashed with ADF in Loselose village, killing 14 and losing two soldiers; angry mob 16-17 Jan lynched three security force personnel across Beni territory, accusing them of complicity with armed groups. In Rutshuru territory (also North Kivu), local Maï-Maï militia 10 Jan killed six wildlife guards in Virunga National Park; armed forces and Maï-Maï militia 30 Jan reportedly clashed in Bwito chiefdom, leaving at least six dead. In South Kivu province, suspected Maï-Maï militia 6-8 Jan reportedly killed four civilians in Uvira and Mwenga territories. Meanwhile, President Tshisekedi won new round of power struggle with predecessor and former coalition partner Joseph Kabila.Constitutional Court 15 Jan ruled deputies could shift political allegiances without risking to lose their seats, opening way for Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) deputies to defect and join Tshisekedi. Over 300 MPs (out of 500) 22 Jan filed motion of no-confidence against PM Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba (loyal to Kabila); National Assembly 27 Jan approved motion; Ilunga 29 Jan stepped down. Senator Modeste Bahati, appointed 1 Jan by Tshisekedi to identify new majority, 28 Jan submitted list of 391 MPs in support of new parliamentary majority. Protests 18 Jan erupted in Lubumbashi city, Haut-Katanga province, following same-day arrest of Kabila-ally Pastor Ngoy Mulunda for alleged incitement to hate and secessionism; Lubumbashi court 27 Jan sentenced Ngoy to three years in prison. French prosecutors 2 Jan opened investigations against former warlord Roger Lumbala, arrested in Paris in Dec for “complicity in crimes against humanity” during second Congo war (1998-2003), among other charges.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Jul 2020
Tshisekedi has been forced to cooperate with Kabila's Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition and they have been in a standoff ever since. Al Jazeera

Nelleke van de Walle

Deputy Project Director, Central Africa
30 Jan 2020
[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. The Irish Times

Nelleke van de Walle

Deputy Project Director, Central Africa
28 Jan 2019
[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. VICE

Hans Hoebeke

Former Senior Analyst, DR Congo
1 Feb 2018
The [DR Congo] regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through. IRIN

Hans Hoebeke

Former Senior Analyst, DR Congo
7 Dec 2017
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. Financial Mail

Hans Hoebeke

Former Senior Analyst, DR Congo
7 Dec 2017
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. New Europe

Richard Moncrieff

Project Director, Central Africa

Latest Updates

Report / Africa

Mineral Concessions: Avoiding Conflict in DR Congo’s Mining Heartland

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.

Also available in Français
Commentary / Africa

De-escalating Tensions in the Great Lakes

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.

A New Approach for the UN to Stabilise the DR Congo

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.

Also available in Français
Special Briefing / Global

Seven Opportunities for the UN in 2019-2020

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.

Q&A / Africa

Moïse Katumbi’s Return Portends Shifting Alliances in Congolese Politics

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.

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Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
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