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DR Congo: A Recount and Talks to Find a Way Out of the Crisis
DR Congo: A Recount and Talks to Find a Way Out of the Crisis
Briefing 107 / Africa

Congo : mettre fin au statuquo

Afin de lutter contre les nombreux groupes armés qui sévissent dans l'Est du Congo et sauver l'Accord-cadre de février 2013 sur la paix, la sécurité et la coopération (ACPSC) dans la région des Grands Lacs, un nouveau consensus et une nouvelle stratégie doivent être adoptés en urgence.

Synthèse

En novembre 2013, la défaite du groupe armé M23 a suscité l’espoir : après presque deux décennies de conflit, le changement et la stabilisation semblaient enfin possibles en République démocratique du Congo (RDC) et dans la région. Cette défaite résultait d’une convergence d’intérêts exceptionnelle entre Kinshasa et les principaux acteurs régionaux et internationaux. Cependant, l’unité de vision et d’action qui a mené à la signature, en février 2013, de l’Accord-cadre pour la paix, la sécurité et la coopération (ACPSC) a aujourd'hui disparu. Pour la reconstruire, le Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies devrait convoquer une réunion de haut niveau réunissant le gouvernement congolais, les acteurs clés de la région et de la scène internationale afin que ceux-ci s’accordent sur une stratégie commune et globale de lutte contre les groupes armés de l’Est de la RDC. En cas d’échec, le statuquo actuel, caractérisé par des attaques sanglantes et des pillages perpétrés contre une population civile déjà brutalisée, continuera.

Le démantèlement des groupes armés, raison d’être de la Brigade d’intervention de la mission des Nations unies en RDC (FIB), ainsi que le programme de réformes nationales du gouvernement congolais, sont dans l'impasse. La neutralisation des Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) constitue désormais le principal point d'achoppement de l’ACPSC. Alors que le délai pour la démobilisation des FDLR, fixé par la région au 2 janvier 2015, expire bientôt, des divergences de vues apparaissent clairement entre certains acteurs régionaux (dont des contributeurs de troupes pour la FIB comme l’Afrique du Sud et la Tanzanie), la RDC et les Nations unies quant à l’après-2 janvier.

L’échec de la démobilisation complète du M23, toujours en Ouganda et au Rwanda, démontre également le désaccord et la méfiance qui règnent parmi les signataires de l’ACPSC. Cet échec résulte en partie du mécontentement du Rwanda face à l’absence de pression militaire contre les FDLR par l'armée congolaise et les Nations unies. Les initiatives de lutte contre les autres groupes armés sont incomplètes et plusieurs occasions de mettre en œuvre des programmes de désarmement, démobilisation et réintégration (DDR) ont été manquées, en raison des désaccords persistants entre Kinshasa et les bailleurs de fonds. La stratégie de stabilisation des provinces de l’Est est ainsi entièrement compromise.

 L’échec de la lutte contre les groupes armés entraine la poursuite d'exactions intolérables commises contre les populations civiles, en particulier dans les régions de l’Est de la RDC (Ituri, Nord et Sud-Kivu et le Nord de la province du Katanga). Cela contribue également aux tensions régionales et sape la crédibilité de la Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en RDC (Monusco), en particulier en matière de protection des populations civiles.

Afin de mettre un terme à l’impasse actuelle avant la date limite du 2 janvier 2015 et de donner un second souffle à la mise en œuvre de l’ACPSC, l'envoyé spécial du secrétaire général des Nations unies pour la région des Grands Lacs et le Conseil de sécurité devraient en urgence :

  • promouvoir un consensus autour d’une stratégie globale de lutte contre les groupes armés, en tirant les enseignements des opérations précédentes. Cette stratégie devrait comprendre une pression militaire effective qui combine opérations de renseignement et envoi de troupes pour entraver le système de financement des groupes armés, ainsi que des solutions pour éviter les pertes civiles ; un programme de DDR ; un accord relatif au traitement judiciaire réservé aux chefs des groupes ; des actions policières contre les réseaux de soutien locaux et internationaux ; et des possibilités de réinstallation dans des pays tiers.

Les gouvernements du Rwanda et de la RDC devraient :

  • indiquer clairement aux anciens combattants de retour au Rwanda qu’ils bénéficieront d’un traitement juste et transparent, tout en leur faisant comprendre qu'il ne peut y avoir de dialogue politique avec les « génocidaires ». Un mécanisme de suivi, similaire à celui mis en place pour les rapatriés par le Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), devrait être établi pour favoriser la confiance parmi les anciens combattants de retour. 

La Communauté de développement de l'Afrique australe (SADC) et la Conférence internationale sur la région des Grands Lacs (CIRGL) devraient:

  • entreprendre en janvier une évaluation rigoureuse du processus de désarmement volontaire et s’abstenir de le prolonger.

Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies et les principaux bailleurs de la Monusco devraient :

  • faire pression sur les pays qui fournissent des troupes à la FIB, en particulier l'Afrique du Sud et la Tanzanie, afin qu'ils respectent leurs engagements à mener des opérations ciblées contre les groupes armés ;
     
  • convoquer une réunion spéciale de haut niveau rassemblant les autres acteurs clés régionaux – Afrique du Sud, Angola, Burundi, Malawi, Ouganda, Rwanda, Tanzanie – et les acteurs internationaux incluant la Banque mondiale, la SADC, la CIRGL, l'Union européenne (UE), les Etats-Unis, le Royaume-Uni, la Belgique et la France, si aucune action n'est prise contre les FDLR en janvier. La réunion devrait établir les causes de l’impasse actuelle et mettre en évidence les coûts humanitaires, politiques et économiques du maintien du statuquo et le risque de compromettre des investissements futurs ; et
     
  • envisager de mettre un terme au mandat de la FIB si le gouvernement congolais et les pays qui fournissent des troupes à la FIB restent réticents à agir, en plus des mesures définies ci-dessus, pour aider à la démobilisation des groupes armés, en particulier les FDLR.

Nairobi/Bruxelles, 17 décembre 2014

Supporters of Martin Fayulu chant slogans and carry placards as he delivers his appeal contesting the CENI results of the presidential election at the constitutional court in Kinshasa, on 12 January 2019. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe
Statement / Africa

DR Congo: A Recount and Talks to Find a Way Out of the Crisis

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.

A dispute over the results of the DR Congo’s 30 December election cast a dark shadow over what should be a historic transition of power but a surprisingly robust reaction by regional actors offers a genuine chance for a course correction. According to official tallies, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was the winner, but these stood in stark contrast to a parallel count by Congolese Catholic Church observers, which indicated a landslide for Martin Fayulu, another opposition leader. Data leaked from sources within the electoral authorities confirm the church’s figures, strongly suggesting an effort to rig the vote in favour of the opposition candidate more palatable to incumbent President Kabila and his allies. On 17 January, the African Union (AU) unexpectedly issued a statement questioning the official results, calling for a suspension of final results, and dispatching a delegation to Kinshasa on 21 January to help Congolese parties reach consensus on next steps. To both reflect the will of the people and avoid a dangerous confrontation, that delegation should push for a recount, so that subsequent negotiations on a way forward can take place on the basis of a clear understanding of who won. All international actors should throw their weight behind the AU’s initiative, appeal for calm and encourage the putative winner, Fayulu, to adopt a conciliatory approach toward his rivals.

On Sunday 30 December, millions of Congolese voted for a new president and provincial and national lawmakers. The presidential election pitted Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the preferred candidate of incumbent President Joseph Kabila, against two opposition leaders, Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu, the latter supported by two political heavyweights, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moïse Katumbi, who had been barred from contesting the vote. Despite repeated delays and the unwarranted exclusion of around 4 per cent of the electorate, balloting passed off in relative calm.

Since then, however, a major political crisis has erupted over the results. Before the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) released its official tallies, the Episcopal Council of the Congolese Catholic Church, known as CENCO, which had deployed some 40,000 observers to monitor the polls, reported that its parallel tabulation had revealed a clear winner and, though it could not legally name a victor before official results were proclaimed, sources close to the church confirmed a landslide win for Martin Fayulu. In contrast, the CENI’s provisional results, released on 10 January, indicated Tshisekedi was the victor, with 38.6 per cent of the vote to Fayulu’s 34.8 per cent and Shadary’s 23.8 per cent. The provisional results also showed President Kabila’s political coalition winning a large majority in of the national legislative and provincial elections, thus appearing to ensure his coalition’s continued political dominance.

By now, the CENI results have been widely discredited, viewed as the result of manipulation by the electoral authorities to secure a win for an opposition candidate that Kabila and his allies view as more conciliatory. Indeed, data leaked from the CENI makes clear that Fayulu decisively won, perhaps with as much as some 60 per cent of votes (similar to CENCO’s estimates). Fayulu has rejected the results and appealed to the Constitutional Court, which is generally regarded as pro-Kabila. By law the Court must adjudicate the election dispute by 19 January.

Initial reactions from Western and African diplomats were muted. Some Western countries questioned the CENI’s results, but many appeared to view Tshisekedi’s win as presenting a silver lining: Kabila’s preferred candidate had been roundly defeated, Kabila himself was out – no mean feat given his earlier determination to stay on – and perhaps the DR Congo could turn a page on the mismanagement and corruption of his rule. Declaring the vote a sham and trying to force a Fayulu presidency, they feared, could provoke a dangerous backlash from pro-Kabila forces who still dominate the security forces – a crisis for which they lacked the will or capacity to deal. In contrast, many surmised, backing Tshisekedi’s, or at least not rocking the boat, might strengthen his hand against Kabila, who it seems is intent to retain influence through parliament and the powerful security sector.

Moreover, it was unclear early on how the region would respond and, without African support, Congolese leaders could portray Western pressure as unwarranted meddling. African leaders began by reacting cautiously as well, calling for any challenges to results to be pursued legally and for consensus. That a statement critical of the elections by Zambian President and chair of the Southern African Development Communities’ (SADC) Organ on Politics, Security and Defense, was rebuked by some of his counterparts illustrated the depth of divisions in the region.

The surprise came on 17 January, when an ad-hoc high-level meeting of the AU put out the strongest statement from the continent. Saying “there were serious doubts” about the provisional results, it called for the “suspension of the proclamation of the final results [by the court] of the elections”. The AU announced it would send a high-level delegation on Monday 21 January to Kinshasa to “interact with all Congolese stakeholders, with the view to reaching a consensus on a way out of the post-electoral crisis in the country”.

The dramatic AU statement and forthcoming visit offer a path forward. The delegation should push for some form of recount or audit, potentially monitored by SADC or the AU, both of which fielded observers for the vote. Such a process could be concluded quickly, since electronic election data, transmitted by the voting machines, is available (observers’ vote tallies based on copies of results sheets in the polling stations might potentially be used to validate that data). This exercise should be conducted for presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Indeed, the starting point for any credible negotiations among Congolese leaders should be a clear understanding of who genuinely won on 30 December. All international actors should throw their weight behind such a process.

Of course, a recount presents risks. Politics in Kinshasa are already deeply polarised and a recount could divide them still further. It is unclear how Tshisekedi’s supporters would respond to having his victory, in their eyes, snatched away. Perhaps more dangerous still, President Kabila and his allies, particularly powerful figures in the security sector, could well resist, given the wariness with which they regard Fayulu, Bemba and Katumbi. Indeed, on 18 January, both the government and Felix Tshisekedi allies rejected the AU’s call to delay the proclamation of the final result of the presidential vote. The government accepted talking to the AU’s delegation but Tshisekedi’s party clearly fears being denied the presidency.

Yet if a recount carries risks, the alternative of acquiescing in the rigged results would be much worse. CENCO tallies and the leaked CENI data suggest the Fayulu ticket attracted almost two-thirds of the vote. Even allowing that some of those votes may have been cast more in protest at Kabila than in support of Fayulu, that still leaves a large constituency that would feel its vote stolen. Supporters of Fayulu and those of his powerful backers Bemba and Katumbi have not yet taken to the streets, but they could easily do so in the future.

The goal of African and Western leaders should be to both ensure that the will of the Congolese people is respected, and prevent a destabilising and costly confrontation. They can promote this outcome by taking several steps. To begin, they should strongly urge all Congolese parties to call for calm and eschew violence. The purported victor, Fayulu, and his allies have a special responsibility to reassure those in both Tshisekedi’s and especially Kabila’s camp. At the same time, the AU delegation should warn that if Tshisekedi’s inauguration goes ahead, it and the regional organisations of which the DR Congo is a member would consider punitive measures, including refusing to recognise the new government with all that would entail for those involved.

More broadly, African and Western leaders ought to combine diplomatic pressure for a recount with equal pressure for negotiations over a consensual political arrangement. This arrangement, which ultimately will have to be decided by the Congolese, could involve, inter alia, inclusive, broad-based power-sharing, a national unity government or the organisation of new elections after two or three years (as Lamuka, the coalition backing Fayulu, had originally foreseen).

Regardless of the precise formula, the outcome should allow the DR Congo’s leaders to leave their political trenches and work with their international and regional partners to begin dealing in earnest with the key sources of instability in large parts of the country and the dire socio-economic situation that most Congolese citizens continue to endure. If they act wisely, they at long last have a chance to do that.