The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, warning of what he called an “extremely fragile” political situation in that country, this morning called on the Security Council to urge the parties to return to dialogue, guarantee the right to peaceful opposition and to end impunity for violence, encouraging regional organizations to engage more closely with the situation.
“The tipping point towards grave violence could arrive very rapidly,” said Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). “I believe that the Council must remain actively seized of the situation.”
In his briefing, which was followed by a presentation on the sanctions regime by the head of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Sidikou introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2016/833), which expressed deep concerns about the impasse in the electoral process, rising political tensions and related violence in the country, and underlined the primary responsibility of the Government and all stakeholders “to preserve the hard-won gains made in recent years”.
Mr. Sidikou recounted that, in September, after a group of opposition parties called the Rassemblement had boycotted the national dialogue despite the efforts of a facilitator named by the African Union, the Independent National Electoral Commission had announced that presidential elections would not be feasible until 18 November 2018, with completion of the voter registry by 31 July 2017. The announcement, he said, had triggered wide-spread condemnations by the opposition, who had claimed that the Commission was being used to extend President Joseph Kabila Kabange’s incumbency beyond constitutional limits. The Rassemblement had subsequently called for the President to step down by 19 December 2016.
On 19 and 20 September, he went on to say, serious violence had erupted following large-scale demonstrations in Kinshasa and elsewhere, during which, the United Nations had confirmed, there were at least 49 civilians killed, 38 by gunshot, others burned alive or killed by machete. More than 140 were injured, with four officers allegedly killed by demonstrators. MONUSCO investigations, he said, had documented the involvement of both State and non-State actors.
MONUSCO, in addition, had continued its call for restraint on the part of all actors, he said. Mr. Sidikou said he had personally raised concerns about the role of State violence with his Government interlocutors and had worked with the diplomatic community and civil society to build bridges between the parties. He had also liaised closely with the Government on confidence-building measures to encourage dialogue, notably through the release of political prisoners and allowing media to operate without constraints. The Mission had reinforced its presence in Kinshasa to bolster monitoring the political, security and human rights situation.
Meanwhile, he reported, violence had also flared in Kasai Central Province, with several clashes between militia affiliated with a traditional leader, including child soldiers and State actors. Security in the eastern part of the country also remained worrying, he said, describing the Mission’s civilian‑protection activities, including military operations against armed groups, based on what he called solid cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also, in regard to the situation in the east, he reported that a precarious situation had been created when more than 1,000 ex-combatants had been returned to communities in the region as part of the demobilization and reintegration process, but before the Government and World Bank partners had adequately prepared the communities for their return, raising the possibilities of tensions and their return to armed groups. Noting MONUSCO community violence-reduction programmes, he called for all partners to quickly put in place the necessary community‑reintegration measures to allow further returns to occur in a constructive manner.
He also appealed for greater support for humanitarian needs in the eastern part of the country, noting that movements of people continued, refugees were arriving from South Sudan, epidemics loomed and the 2016 appeal was only half funded. With regard to the total situation of the country, he warned that, while MONUSCO would continue to do everything in its power to protect civilians, large-scale violence due to political polarization could be overwhelming. “The scope of the threats dramatically outstrips the Mission’s capabilities,” he said.
Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta of Egypt, Chair of the 1533 Committee, reported on his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda from 1 to 6 August. He said he had noticed the growing tension over the uncertainty in the electoral cycle, the security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and measures to counter the illicit trade in natural resources. The 1533 Committee continued to enhance the sanctions regime’s effectiveness by focusing on improved cooperation with regional States. During his visit, he said, he had encouraged officials to cooperate with the Committee’s Group of Experts by facilitating their visits and providing information.
On 10 October, he went on to say, the Committee had met with representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and other States in formal consultations to reflect on how to improve the implementation of the measures and enhance collaboration. He said armed groups, in particular the Allied Democratic Forces, remained a major threat to the peace and stability in the eastern part of the country. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda was reportedly more fragmented and weakened. It was critical to limit the capacity of those armed groups, he said, noting the renewed cooperation among the region’s countries in that regard.
Another key concern remained the illicit exploitation of natural resources, which indirectly supported armed groups, he said. He pledged that the Group of Experts and the Committee would remain vigilant, including by discussing means to help the country address that matter. Also, the rising political tensions in the country had the potential to further exacerbate the security situation and undermine the hard-fought gains in stabilizing the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Secretariat had contacted the Offices of the Special Representatives for Sexual Violence and Children and Armed Conflict to share information on humanitarian-related issues. He stressed that support for the work of the Group of Experts remained critical for the implementation of the sanctions measures.
Following those briefings, the representative of Uruguay, one of the troop-contributing countries to MONUSCO, expressed his concern about the stagnation of the political process. The impasse should be resolved through dialogue in good faith by all stakeholders in the country. A consensus was necessary to hold elections without delay, he said, appealing to those groups that had not yet done so to join the national dialogue. Concerned about the increase in violations of human and political rights, he said that those responsible must be brought to justice.
Supporting that statement, the representative of Venezuela called for a road map that could lead to elections and expressed regret that certain forces had boycotted the political process. He appealed to all to refrain from actions that would lead to violence and called on the Council to send a message of support for facilitation of the national dialogue.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo then took the floor, stating that clarifications were required on some aspects of the United Nations reports that had been presented today. With regard to the 19 September demonstrations, he stated that “a march was transformed into a real insurrection”. Agreements, he said, had been reached for a march to begin at noon. However, before that time, tires had been set on fire and calls had been issued to loot the homes of officials. Rape, targeting of police, pillaging and attacks on public and party buildings had occurred. The situation had finally been brought under control by officers using tear gas, not live bullets as stated by the report. Only those who had engaged in criminal acts had been arrested.
All political actors were supposed to engage in the national dialogue, but the Rassemblement had boycotted it, he said, despite the African Union facilitator’s work for inclusivity. Participants had agreed on the voter registry, with a view towards credible elections. Elections would take place at that time and a Government of national transition was envisioned. The date for elections was under discussion with those factors in mind.
In response to international criticism, he reminded the Council that the dialogue was meant to be between Congolese actors, a fact the international partners must respect. Advice was welcome, but harsh criticism and demands only fuelled the intransigence of some parties, who had rejected many electoral calendar proposals. The Government and facilitator had reached out broadly to all parties, he maintained. It was the Rassemblement parties themselves who had refused to participate. The Government had also taken steps to institute confidence-building measures, but could not intervene in legal processes.
From the Security Council, he called for continued support for the facilitator and the mandated dialogue process, as well as continued support to MONUSCO in its cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in efforts to root out armed groups in the eastern part of the country, allowing civilians to live in peace and pursue the sustainable development agenda. He expressed gratitude to MONUSCO, the Security Council and bilateral partners for all their assistance in that regard.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 11:05 a.m.