Permanent Representative Describes Perceived Delays in Electoral Process, Narrowing Political Space as ‘Incorrect’
Rising political tensions ahead of presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo risked sparking a “severe crisis”, the Deputy Secretary-General told the Security Council today, calling on all political stakeholders to give dialogue a chance, engage in good faith and prioritize the nation’s interests.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson conveyed the Secretary-General’s concerns to the Council, saying delays in the electoral process, debate over respect for the Constitution and restrictions on democratic space had fuelled discontent in that country. The political dialogue proposed by President Joseph Kabila also faced uncertainty, he said, noting that, while the President had urged African Union Facilitator Edem Kodjo, a former Prime Minister of Togo, to launch the dialogue as soon as possible, opposition members had argued that it could lead to an extension of the presidential term beyond November.
“In the absence of dialogue, there is a real risk that political actors could resort to unilateral decisions which may compound existing political tensions,” the Deputy Secretary-General warned, emphasizing that an inclusive and credible dialogue among Congolese stakeholders was the only way to overcome the impasse. Such a tragic, and still preventable, outcome would reverse political, security and development gains, and require a response beyond the capacity of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Citing three elements that could support an inclusive dialogue, he said the international support group behind Mr. Kodjo could help to build confidence, recalling that participants in its inaugural meeting on 4 July had reaffirmed the importance of holding a national dialogue by the end of July and agreed to carry out consultations aimed at encouraging all stakeholders to that end. Secondly, a voters’ register could pave the way for transparent elections, he said, noting that MONUSCO was providing technical assistance and logistical support for revising the existing one, and had updated plans to address security risks and monitor human rights abuses. While the protection of civilians would remain a MONUSCO priority, it would be unrealistic to expect the Mission to substitute for the State, he said.
Noting that security in Ituri District and in North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces was “extremely serious”, he also expressed concern about the situation in Beni, where the Allied Democratic Forces had attacked civilians, as well as members of the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and MONUSCO. While military cooperation between FARDC and MONUSCO in North Kivu was addressing the threat to civilians, the threat posed by armed groups could only be addressed through military and political measures.
To preserve gains already made, political leaders should listen to their people, he said, stressing that dialogue, respect for the rule of law and for human rights, as well as democratic participation, constituted the best way to prevent violence. He also pressed the Council to build on the progress made, and the wider international community to engage proactively with all parties, with a view to defusing tensions.
Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that he and his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs had already explained why the electoral process had been delayed. The country wanted free, credible, fair and peaceful elections, he said, recalling that two weeks ago, in Kalemie, Tanganyika Province, and in Kindu, Maniema Province, President Kabila had assured the Congolese people that elections would be organized and had called for registration so they could start. The National Independent Electoral Commission had proceeded with trials in Kinshasa and Matadi in Central Congo Province, and the registration process would soon start in North Ubangi, while an awareness-raising campaign had begun in Bas-Uele Province. National political dialogue was needed to overcome obstacles to the electoral process and to prevent post-election crises, he said, recalling that, during his state-of-nation address on 30 July, the President had called on facilitators to begin a Congolese-owned dialogue this month, with the international community in a supporting role.
Yet, despite the Government’s explanations about the narrowing of political space, incorrect perceptions remained, he said, emphasizing that, in reality, his country enjoyed probably the most open political space in the region. Visitors could testify to that, he said, pointing out that the country had more than 400 political parties. Hundreds of television and radio stations broadcast freely and were often openly critical of Government institutions, he added. Criticism of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was frequently unjustified, he said, emphasizing, however, that the exercise of individual rights and freedoms could not be used to justify defiance of human rights and security law. Belonging to opposition or any other groups did not excuse one from upholding human rights, he stressed. The population had suffered too much impunity, and excessive leniency would not help to consolidate democratic gains, he cautioned. As for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, he said it was currently supported only by the Government, calling on partners who had pledged contributions to keep fulfil their promises.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 3:23 p.m.