Congo: Staying Engaged after the Elections
Congo: Staying Engaged after the Elections
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
War and Dizzying Regional Alliances in Congo’s East
War and Dizzying Regional Alliances in Congo’s East
Briefing 44 / Africa 4 minutes

Congo: Staying Engaged after the Elections

On 6 December 2006, Joseph Kabila was sworn in as the first democratically elected president since Congolese independence, concluding a landmark electoral process largely devoid of major violence or gross irregularities. Democratic governance is now expected to support peacebuilding and reconstruction.

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I. Overview

On 6 December 2006, Joseph Kabila was sworn in as the first democratically elected president since Congolese independence, concluding a landmark electoral process largely devoid of major violence or gross irregularities. Democratic governance is now expected to support peacebuilding and reconstruction. The new government has weak and barely functioning institutions, however, and the international community, which has given decisive support to the peace process, must continue to help it overcome serious security and political challenges. Immediate agenda items include to set up promptly a new structure to coordinate aid efforts, renew the United Nations Mission (MONUC) with a strong mandate and increase efforts to improve security throughout the country.

The second-round challenger in the presidential election, Jean-Pierre Bemba, conceded defeat and has committed to lead the opposition in parliament once elected senator, although he did not accept the validity of the poll results. Kabila’s election, establishment of a newly elected parliament and implementation of the constitution adopted by referendum on 18 December 2005 bring an end to the transition born out of the 2002 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Pretoria. They provide the fundamental elements of the political dispensation promised to the Congolese people during the peace talks and open a new era for the country. With a reasonably clear popular mandate – 58 per cent in the run-off round – and a strong majority in parliament, Kabila controls roughly three fifths of both houses and is empowered to consolidate peace and stability in the country.

The peace process, however, is not complete. Its successes have to be consolidated and its achievements safeguarded. The situation in the East in particular remains extremely volatile, and little state authority exists in most of the opposition-dominated West. The defiant capital, Kinshasa, is permanently at risk of large-scale civil unrest. Kabila’s control of most state institutions also entails a risk. Indeed, political repression is already on the rise, with triumphant hawks demanding a review of some of the transition’s key legislative milestones. There are signs of opposition marginalisation in the national assembly and of former rebel forces being sidelined in the security services.

This briefing focuses on two significant and related pending decisions: the MONUC mandate renewal, which comes up in February, and the establishment of new international structures to support the peace process following dissolution of the Kinshasa-based International Committee for Supporting the Transition (CIAT). (A more comprehensive analysis, including a full overview of the transition’s achievements and the remaining peace process challenges, will be provided in a subsequent report.) Some donors indicate that they want to reduce MONUC to a pure security mission, charged only with supporting the Congolese army in the troubled East and providing technical assistance on human rights, demobilisation and civil affairs. This would strip away its important political capacity to act in a conflict prevention or conflict management mode.

The Kabila government and some donors also appear to want to replace CIAT with a purely technical structure concentrated on development and humanitarian assistance and to treat most aid matters on a purely bilateral basis. This would weaken the capacity of the international community to work collectively to support democratic practices and safeguard other peace process achievements.

Donors and others in the international community should pursue three policy priorities:

  • Diplomatic and political coordination. The UN Security Council should mandate MONUC to consult with the new Congolese institutions and key countries (the Council’s five permanent members, Belgium, South Africa, Angola) to create a limited-membership international political forum. That forum should advise and support the government on national and regional conflict prevention and management and on protecting the achievements of the peace process. A larger group, which might include all donors, should be set up separately, dedicated to humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Support to Congo’s emerging institutions. The Council should mandate MONUC to facilitate establishment of a joint commission on legal reform and state reconstruction, involving representatives of government, parliament and key major donors. It would support and advise key state institutions on implementation of the new constitution and the completion of legal reforms agreed upon at the Inter-Congolese dialogue (such as devolution of central government responsibilities to the newly created provinces, judicial reform and anti-corruption legislation). The joint commission on security sector reform (SSR) created during the transition should be renewed, with a clear mandate to support the implementation of an integrated and comprehensive strategy, including the key issue of vetting, donor coordination and payment and sustainment of the integrated national army (FARDC).
  • Securing the country. MONUC’s troop level should be kept around 17,000 in 2007 and the draw-down of its brigades should begin only when there has been decisive progress in restoring state authority, particularly in Ituri, the Kivus and Katanga. MONUC’s plan to give short-term military training to the integrated brigades should be supported by donors, in connection with implementation of transitional justice measures in the security forces. Donors should insist in particular that the new government work with the EU mission and MONUC to carry out, through the joint commission on SSR, a system of vetting within the security forces, so as progressively to exclude those guilty of the most serious abuses during the war and the transition.


Nairobi/Brussels, 9 January 2007

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