Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the Security Council meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in New York today:
Thank you for this opportunity to brief you on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am here today to convey the Secretary-General’s and my concerns about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Political tensions are rising ahead of the constitutionally envisaged presidential and legislative elections. Polarization and public discontent are fuelled by delays in the electoral process, a debate around respect for the Constitution, and increasing restrictions on democratic space.
The political dialogue proposed by President Joseph Kabila is facing uncertainty. The ruling majority and the opposition have expressed their support in principle. However, there is no agreement on the terms under which the dialogue should be held, and who should participate.
President Kabila reiterated the need for dialogue in his 30 June address to the nation and urged the Facilitator of the African Union, former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo, to take steps to launch the dialogue as soon as possible. Important members of the opposition continue to express reservations. They argue that the dialogue proposed by President Kabila could lead to the extension of his term in office beyond November 2016.
The efforts of African Union Facilitator Edem Kodjo, who is supported by Special Representative Maman Sidikou and Special Envoy Saïd Djinnit, have not yet bridged this gap. In the absence of dialogue, there is a real risk that political actors could resort to unilateral decisions which may compound existing political tensions.
An inclusive and credible dialogue among Congolese stakeholders is the only realistic way to defuse political tensions, overcome the electoral impasse and prevent violence. Such a dialogue should result in an inclusive agreement that could lead to credible presidential and legislative elections. Without it, we face the risk of a severe crisis with a high probability of violence and persistent instability.
This tragic, and still preventable, outcome would not only reverse the political, security and development gains of the past few years. It would also require a response that goes beyond the capacity of MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo]. I, therefore, need to convey the Secretary-General’s serious call for all Congolese political stakeholders to give dialogue a chance, engage in good faith and place the interests of their nation first.
I would like to draw attention to three elements that could support an inclusive dialogue.
First, as proposed by the African Union, the European Union, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the United Nations in their joint communiqué of 6 June, the international support group to the facilitation efforts of Mr. Kodjo could make an important contribution to build confidence in the process. I welcome the group’s inaugural meeting on 4 July in Addis Ababa. The support group reaffirmed the crucial importance of holding a successful national dialogue with all Congolese stakeholders, preferably by the end of July 2016, and agreed to undertake consultations aimed at encouraging all stakeholders to participate in the dialogue.
Second, a reliable voter register could help defuse tensions and pave the way for transparent and credible elections. MONUSCO is providing technical assistance and logistical support for the revision of the register.
Third, as called for by this Council, MONUSCO has updated its plans to address security risks and to monitor human rights violations and abuses in the context of the elections. The protection of civilians will remain a key priority of the Mission, including in the context of the electoral process. I should, however, note that in case of a major political and security crisis, it would be unrealistic to expect MONUSCO to substitute for the State.
In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular in a number of territories in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces, the security situation remains extremely serious. There is reason to be particularly concerned about the situation in Beni, where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have carried out deadly attacks against defenceless civilians, the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo — the FARDC — and MONUSCO. We are also concerned about intercommunal tensions and violence in Lubero and Walikale territories, in North Kivu.
The resumption of active military cooperation between the FARDC and MONUSCO in operations against the ADF and the FDLR in North Kivu is encouraging. It is helping to address the threat which armed groups pose to the civilian population in the east. Ultimately, the threat posed by armed groups, exacerbated by underlying socioeconomic and political problems can only be addressed through a combination of military pressure and political measures.
Significant progress has been achieved in stabilizing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To preserve these gains, political leaders must listen to the aspirations of their people, who have suffered for far too long from continuous political crises and violent conflicts. Dialogue, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and democratic participation and practices are the best way to prevent continued violence and suffering.
I count on the Security Council to give its full and steadfast support to dialogue and for the strengthening of democratic practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What is at stake here, basically, is the long-term
stability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and you know the importance and size of that country — and the Great Lakes region. The international community and the United Nations have invested heavily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We must preserve and build on the progress made.
There is growing recognition at the global level of the importance of political leadership in preventing and mitigating crises. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is time to move from discussions and intentions to action. The international community and Member States must now proactively engage with all parties to defuse tensions and point to a path to the dialogue that is so vital and urgent. The leadership of the Security Council is critical. And the Secretary-General and I, and our colleagues, are here to do anything we can to help. I thank you.