Permanent Representative Reassures Members, as Peacekeeping Mission’s Chief Voices Concern over Lack of Electoral Calendar, Budget for Polls
Rising political tensions associated with the electoral process and the increasing number of security incidents and human rights violations posed a real risk of civil unrest and widespread violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Security Council heard today during its periodic briefing on the situation.
“Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 2016 are a deeply divisive issue,” said Maman Sambo Sidikou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), voicing concern over the continuing absence of an agreed electoral calendar and a budget for the elections.
As for the national dialogue, he continued, formal preparations announced by President Joseph Kabila had not yet begun due to strong opposition to the initiative by major opposition groups. He added that, as the President continued consultations with international partners on the designation of an international facilitator for the national dialogue, he had expressed MONUSCO’s readiness to support an inclusive Congolese process guided by the constitution.
He said he had been encouraged that the Catholic Bishops Conference had met separately with leaders of political parties, the Electoral Commission and civil society representatives to seek their views on reviving the electoral process. However, in the absence of agreement on that process, political polarization had heightened tensions and contributed to increased human rights violations. Since 2015, MONUSCO had registered more than 260 election-related human rights violations, which demonstrated a worrying trend of narrowing political space and posed a real challenge to the conduct of peaceful and credible elections, he said.
Turning to the security situation, he noted a significant deterioration in the eastern part of the country, particularly the Beni and Lubero territories of North Kivu Province. The activities of the Allied Defence Forces (ADF) and the Forces democratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), among other groups, continued to pose a serious threat to civilian populations. To address such challenges, MONUSCO had increased its joint police and military patrols and redeployed an additional company operating base of its Force Intervention Brigade, in addition to increasing its outreach and early warning activities.
He went on to note that Sukola II operations by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against the FDLR had intensified in Lubero and bordering territories since October 2015. As the situation continued to worsen, civilians had been subjected to displacement, abduction, harassment and massacres, often on the basis of ethnicity. For its part, MONUSCO remained engaged with the Government and the FARDC command, urging increased military pressure on local militia in North Kivu with a view to encouraging voluntary disarmament. Meanwhile, the crisis in Burundi had heightened the risks of renewed instability in South Kivu Province in light of new flows of refugees into the country, he pointed out, emphasizing that MONUSCO would monitor the situation along the border closely and ensure that contingency plans were in place.
Regarding the reduction of the Mission’s force strength by 1,700 troops, he said the drawdown would be accompanied by a “force transformation” process to ensure that MONUSCO would exercise greater operational capability. The goal was to continue to project force and to enhance its ability to protect civilians, he added.
Following the briefing, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that, while the electoral process in his country was experiencing some delays, the Government was committed to organizing inclusive, transparent and accountable elections, “even though the road is strewn with obstacles”. It was working to avert a repetition of the deadly violence seen during elections in 2007 and 2011. President Kabila was organizing a national dialogue with a view to forging consensus on the electoral process.
Detailing some of the obstacles facing the process, he said the most important concerned the electoral list. The country faced two choices: either to hold elections based on a “flawed” voter list, or to address those flaws ahead of the elections in order to reduce risks. Another challenge concerned the electoral timetable, which was non-operational because of multiple dissenting voices, he said. In addition, the country faced the challenges of providing a safe voting environment and ensuring funding for the electoral process. While that would entail a cost of approximately $1.2 billion, the Government had only made available about half that amount due to a lack of resources. Given those challenges, there was an urgent need for dialogue on international facilitation, he emphasized, recalling that President Kabila had been requesting the United Nations to appoint a facilitator for the national dialogue process since the end of 2015. The country was still awaiting an appointment.
Turning to Government efforts to combat armed groups, he said it had been working alongside MONUSCO to hunt down the ADF. It had also “hamstrung” FDLR, including by arresting the criminal Ladislas Ntaganzwa on 8 December 2015. Expressing gratitude to the United Nations for providing care for ex-combatants, he asked the Council and the international community in general to be more involved in their repatriation. In that regard, he noted that there had been a significant delay in repatriating former 23 March Movement combatants to Rwanda, in line with the Nairobi Declaration. Countries harbouring such former fighter should be invited to ensure that their commitments were translated into action, he stressed.
Turning finally to the strategic dialogue between his country and the United Nations, he said the Government welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations to the Council regarding a potential review of MONUSCO’s operations in March, with particular regard to a drawdown of troops and a review of the Mission’s effectiveness.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 10:37 a.m.
* The 7602nd Meeting was closed.