Delayed Elections, Stalled Peace Accord Prolonging Political Uncertainty in Democratic Republic of Congo, Key Official Tells Security Council

SC/12757
21 March 2017
7903rd Meeting (AM)

Delayed Elections, Stalled Peace Accord Prolonging Political Uncertainty in Democratic Republic of Congo, Key Official Tells Security Council

Mission’s Efforts ‘Unacceptable’ as Uruguay, Civil Society Representatives Cite Remaining Tasks amid Persisting Violence

Delays in holding elections and in implementation of the comprehensive and inclusive agreement signed on 31 December 2016 was prolonging the political uncertainty plaguing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Security Council heard today, as briefers described the country’s deteriorating security and humanitarian situation as a source of major concern.

Briefing on the situation was Maman Sidikou, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), who presented the relevant report of the Secretary-General (document S/2017/206).  He pointed to the forthcoming elections in emphasizing the need for United Nations support, citing the diverging points of view and violence causing further delay.

Emphasizing that the risk of electoral violence remained high, mainly in urban areas, he cautioned that it was likely to rise further.  Delayed implementation of the “comprehensive and inclusive political agreement”, signed in Kinshasa on 31 December 2016, was prolonging the current political uncertainty, he pointed out.  He expressed particular concern about reports of excessive use of force, and the discovery of mass graves in the Kasai provinces, and encouraged the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conduct thorough investigations and ensure that the perpetrators were held fully to account.

He went on to state that community-based violence and inter-ethnic clashes had spread from provinces already affected by armed conflict.  While coordinated military operations by MONUSCO and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) had helped to maintain military pressure on armed groups, the resurgence of violence in the rest of the country had been exacerbated by the uncertain political situation, the manipulation of grievances for political ends, and the support provided to armed militias by some political actors.  “Only political solutions can address and stem the rising levels of violence now being witnessed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he said.  MONUSCO remained fully engaged in protecting and promoting human rights and political space, he stressed.

The 31 December agreement provided a clear path towards elections, setting the stage for MONUSCO’s drawdown and exit, he said.  In that regard, the Mission’s main strategic objective would be to support the establishment of an environment conducive to the timely holding of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections, in accordance with the agreement’s provisions.  Accordingly, MONUSCO had already adjusted its posture and operations, provided support for updating the voter register, and strengthened its civilian and military presence and operations in new areas of concern, he said.

Addressing the Council, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo said that it was “unacceptable” that MONUSCO was unable to end the crisis in his country, which had lasted several years.  Any extension of its mandate must respect the wishes of the Congolese people, he emphasized.  The Mission was no longer the sole responder to most of the nation’s residual security challenges, he added, crediting the national armed forces with having undertaken nearly all response, and calling upon the Council to provide an exit-strategy timeline for MONUSCO.  Support from the Mission was running into difficulties, noting delays in the delivery of electoral materials.  Despite that setback, however, the Government was committed to creating conditions for a peaceful and transparent electoral process, he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, condemned duplicity and lack of cooperation on the part of certain countries, and urged the United Nations to take the necessary steps to swiftly expel their combatants from Congolese territory.  He also condemned the abduction of two Security Council experts, saying the national security forces were trying to find them.  Turning to the human rights situation, he said ad hoc organizations were responsible for helping the Government provide support in that regard.  Pointing out the drop in sexual violence, he called for his country’s removal from the list of those with high rates of rape, and those recruiting children for use as soldiers.

Turning to the forthcoming elections, he said some 12 million voters had already been registered.  The political agenda was currently dominated by the 31 December agreement, he said, assuring the Council that the Government had no intention of delaying its implementation.  Regarding security, he noted the continuing presence of armed groups and combatants in the eastern part of the country and pledged that the national armed forces would continue their mission until all such criminals were eradicated.

Uruguay’s representative emphasized that it was “very difficult” to understand the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s request to reduce the Mission and present an exit strategy, declaring:  “This is no time for political game-playing.”  The most pressing task before the United Nations was to support implementation of the transition agreement, to contribute to the holding of elections and the peaceful transfer of power, he said.  Conflict had reared its ugly head in several parts of the country, and the Organization had itself been a victim, as seen in the recent abduction of two Security Council experts.

Also addressing the Council was the President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), who noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the midst of a sociopolitical crisis, emphasizing that the 31 December accord was the “only document that can rescue” the country from a constitutional crisis.  Yet its implementation had stalled, he said, adding that tensions continued to simmer.  The Catholic Church had been targeted by the militia accusing it of not doing enough to promote implementation of the agreement.

A third briefer, from the Common Cause Network, declared:  “Citizens no longer have trust in State institutions,” citing excessive use of force, human rights violations and the discovery of mass graves, as well as the stagnant economy, monetary depreciation, corruption, unemployment, and the lack of access to basic social services.  “Political dialogue is the only way to settle this crisis,” she said.  The people’s long suffering was no longer acceptable.

The meeting began at 11:03 a.m. and ended at 12:07 p.m.

Briefings

MAMAN SIDIKOU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), pointed to the forthcoming elections in emphasizing the need for United Nations support, citing the diverging point of views and violence further delaying finalization of “l’arrangement particulier”.  Despite the delays, however, significant progress had been made in the registration of voters, he said, adding that MONUSCO had transported 3,000 tons of registration materials.

He went on to emphasize that the country’s deteriorating security situation remained a source of major concern.  Community-based violence and inter-ethnic clashes had spread from provinces already affected by armed conflict, such as the [North and South] Kivus, to Tanganyika, the three Kasai provinces [Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental], Lomami and Kongo Central.  Coordinated operations by MONUSCO and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) against armed groups had helped to maintain military pressure, but the resurgence of violence in the rest of the country had been exacerbated by the uncertain political situation, the manipulation of grievances for political ends, and the support provided to armed militias by some political actors.

The risk of electoral violence remained high, mainly in urban areas, he continued, cautioning that it was likely to rise further.  Delayed implementation of the “comprehensive and inclusive political agreement”, signed in Kinshasa on 31 December 2016, was prolonging the current political uncertainty, he pointed out.  The spread of violence had been characterized by a significant increase in human rights abuses, with 2016 having witnessed a 30 per cent increase in such violations compared to 2015.  Expressing particular concern about reports of excessive use of force, and the presence of mass graves in the Kasai provinces, he reported that he had encouraged the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conduct thorough investigations and to ensure that the perpetrators were held fully to account.

MONUSCO stood ready to provide full support for the investigations, he emphasized.  “Only political solutions can address and stem the rising levels of violence now being witnessed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he said, adding that MONUSCO remained fully engaged in protecting and promoting human rights and political space.  The Mission was also applying the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy in strict implementation of its mandate.  He went on to voice concern about the country’s deteriorating socioeconomic and humanitarian situation, including the continuing depreciation of the Congolese franc, the lack of foreign currency reserves and the fiscal shortfall, all of which were having an increasing impact on the livelihoods of citizens.  The deteriorating economy, coupled with the deteriorating humanitarian situation resulting from the intensifying violence, had led to the forcible displacement of 2.2 million people, he said.

The comprehensive and inclusive political agreement of 31 December provided a clear path towards the holding of elections, setting the stage for MONUSCO’s drawdown and exit.  The Mission’s main strategic objective for the next months would be to support the establishment of an environment conducive to the timely holding of peaceful, credible and inclusive elections, in accordance with the agreement’s provisions.  Accordingly, MONUSCO had already undertaken adjustments of its posture and operations, and support for updating the voter register, while strengthening its civilian and military presence and operations in new areas of concern.  Emphasizing that the primary responsibility for the agreement’s implementation rested with its signatories, he said the Mission would provide support to that objective, and for efforts to address the mounting threats faced by the civilian population during the transition period.

MARCEL UTEMBI, President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), welcomed the various dialogues that had led to the signing of the comprehensive and inclusive political agreement signed in Kinshasa on 31 December 2016.  Noting that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the midst of a sociopolitical crisis, he said the 31 December accord was the “only document that can rescue” the country from a constitutional crisis, yet its implementation had stalled.  Delaying implementation did nothing to ease political tension in the country, he emphasized, noting that bloody clashes and violations of human rights remained of great concern.  Conflict had been spiralling out of control, marked by hundreds of deaths and a lack of humanitarian assistance.  Local people were being massacred in North Kivu Province and entire families had been displaced, he said, adding that such atrocities went entirely unchecked.

With tensions continuing to simmer, the Catholic Church had itself been targeted by militia accusing it of not doing enough to help implementation of the 31 December agreement, he continued.  Touching on the sociopolitical crisis adversely impacting the economy, he said both private and public businesses stood idle and people’s low purchasing power prevented them from meeting their most basic needs.  The Congolese people must stand courageously, he said, emphasizing that they could only overcome the crisis through the rapid and comprehensive implementation of the 31 December agreement as the only realistic road map to resolution of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called on the international community, particularly the African Union, European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom to provide humanitarian aid to all victims, exert pressure on all stakeholders and pursue an impartial investigation into the bloody clashes.

MARIE-MADELEINE KALALA, Common Cause Network, expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation in her country and the spread of community-based violence and inter-ethnic clashes.  The uncertain political situation and the failure to hold elections had exacerbated the crisis, leading to the resurgence of violence.  Also concerning were excessive use of force, violations of human rights, the discovery of mass graves, the stagnant economy, monetary depreciation, corruption, unemployment and the lack of access to basic social services, she said.  “Citizens no longer have trust in State institutions,” she declared, emphasizing that women, the elderly and children were paying the price.

The judiciary system was incapable of providing justice, and women’s representation in Parliament was less than 3 per cent, she continued, declaring:  “Political dialogue is the only way to settle this crisis.”  The population’s long suffering was no longer acceptable, she said, underlining that political actors must honour their commitments.  She went on to point out that no electoral calendar had been published yet, while underlining the responsibility of State institutions for preparing the elections.  She also expressed regret that the international community had remained silent amid the murders and killings taking place in Beni.  “Je suis Beni” had not had the same impact as “Je suis Paris” or “Je suis Munich”, she noted.

Statements

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) reiterated his country’s commitment to peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not only as an elected member of the Council but also as a troop contributor to MONUSCO.  Noting that implementation of the 31 December agreement had stalled almost three months after signature, he emphasized that the most pressing task before the United Nations now was to support implementation of the transition agreement, and contribute to the holding of elections and a peaceful transfer of power.  Conflict had reared its ugly head in several parts of the country and the United Nations had itself been a victim, as seen with the recent abduction of two Security Council experts, he noted.

Reiterating that responsibility to exercise maximum restraint when responding to legitimate popular protests and demand lay with the national authorities, he urged the Government also to address and meet the dire humanitarian needs of millions.  MONUSCO needed a resource boost in order to help the national authorities ensure security, he said, warning that, amid the flaring tensions, it was “very difficult” to understand the request of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reduce the Mission’s presence and present an exit strategy.  “This is no time for political game-playing,” he stressed.

LEONARD SHE OKITUNDU, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Democratic Republic of the Congo, took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Mission in his country.  He said an inclusive national dialogue was critical to tackling the national sociopolitical crisis, emphasizing that both agreements reached in the course of 2016, one in July and one in December, had made positive contributions, including to the holding of free and democratic elections.  The political situation in the country was currently governed by the 31 December agreement, he said, assuring the Council that the Government had no intention of delaying its implementation.  He added that he remained convinced the parties could reach agreement with the resumption of negotiations.  The Government was also using all necessary means to implement the agreement.  As for free and democratic elections, he said some 12 million voters had already been registered, outlining various steps taken by the Government.

However, support from MONUSCO was running into difficulties, including delays in delivering electoral materials, he said, while pledging that the Government would spare no effort in creating the conditions for a peaceful and transparent electoral process.  That should be done without any strings attached, he emphasized.  On security, he said the national forces would continue their mission against armed groups and combatants in the eastern part of the country until all such criminals were eradicated.  To achieve that goal, the armed forces would continue their cooperation with the MONUSCO, he said, while underlining that it was “unacceptable” that the Mission was unable to end the crisis, which had lasted several years.  Any extension of its mandate must respect the wishes of the Congolese people.  Appropriate resources, as well as improved cooperation and knowledge-sharing, were critical to fighting armed groups, he said, pointing out that while some of them had agreed to the Nairobi Declaration, they had since violated that agreement, and only a small number had agreed to be repatriated from Uganda.

He condemned duplicity and lack of cooperation on the part of certain countries, urging the United Nations to take the necessary steps to swiftly expel their combatants from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Condemning the abduction of two Security Council experts, he said the national security forces were trying to find them.  He also underlined that MONUSCO was no longer the sole responder to most of the nation’s residual security challenges, saying the national armed forces undertook nearly all response, and calling on the Council to provide an exit-strategy timeline for the Mission.  Turning to human rights, he said ad hoc organizations were responsible for helping the Government provide support in that regard.  The existence of the President’s Office of Human Rights was proof of the Government’s willingness to meet the people’s needs, he said, reiterating his country’s commitment to international human rights standards.

Concerning freedom of public protest, he said the authorities were responsible for ensuring that demonstrators stuck to the itinerary, and must also safeguard public order and prevent damage to infrastructure.  He went on to point out that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had experienced a drop in sexual violence, calling for its removal from the list of countries with high rates of rape.  He also called for the country’s delisting from the ranks of countries recruiting children and using them as soldiers.  The forthcoming extension of MONUSCO’S mandate should bring peace and an end to the tragedy that the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been dealing with for far too long, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.