Electoral List in Final Phase of Updating, Foreign Minister Assures Members
The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today urged international and regional stakeholders to help the country avert worsening instability by advancing progress on elections and other stalled components of the recent political agreement.
“It is only by working together in synergy that the obstacles facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo can be overcome,” said 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).
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission’s work (document S/2017/824) and his special report on the strategic review of MONUSCO (document S/2017/826), he said the review had been requested with a view to providing options for reducing the Mission’s military and civilian personnel, as well as recommendations for an exit strategy following implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process, the holding of elections by the end of 2017, and significant progress in reducing the threat posed by armed groups.
Delays in implementing those requirements, as well as violence in a number of regions and a deepening humanitarian crisis, had created tensions and a climate of uncertainty, he said, stressing that the principles of the agreement “represent the only viable way of creating the conditions necessary for the holding of peaceful and credible elections … and advancing the political processes”.
In light of developments, a side event had been held at the opening of the seventy-second General Assembly session in September, he said. Despite problems in registering diaspora voters and certain others, progress had been acknowledged in the voter registration process, which had included a substantial percentage of women. Participants had emphasized the urgency of creating a conducive environment for peaceful polls and publishing an electoral calendar and budget.
Expressing regret that financial resources for the electoral budget were not yet available, he said the support fund managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was only 6 per cent full and MONUSCO had not been provided with any additional resources to support the update of the voter registry or the broader process.
Suitable conditions required, in addition, implementation of confidence-building measures, as stipulated in the 2016 agreement, he said. Those included the opening of political space and full respect for human rights, such as the freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly. He reiterated his concern that journalists, political opponents and civil society activists still faced intimidation and violence for their opinions on the political process.
Meanwhile, security had further deteriorated in many areas, he continued. Tensions had heightened in the Kivu region, between Hutu and Nande communities and clashes had again occurred between Twa and Luba communities in Tanganyika province, with the resurgence of Mai-Mai activities. Volatility in the west continued in the aftermath of major clashes between the politico-religious sect known as Bundu Dia Mayala and security forces in Kinshasa and Kongo Central.
In the Kasaï region, clashes occurred between the security forces and the Kamuina Nsapu group, he said, strongly condemning that group’s violence, recruitment of children and targeting of schools and other protected sites. At the same time, he denounced the disproportionate use of force and targeting of civilians by the Congolese national security forces.
The deterioration of security was clearly hurting civilians, he said. Between June and August of this year, MONUSCO had dealt with 1,329 human rights violations attributed to both militias and national security forces. Currently 8.5 million people in the country required humanitarian assistance and the number of displaced had reached 3.8 million, with over 621,000 seeking refuge in the region.
He went on to say that MONUSCO continued to adapt to the situation, despite reduced budgets. More flexible geographical sectors were now more easily redeployed, the intervention brigade had increased mobility and the Mission’s presence in Kasaï had been reinforced.
To conform to the latest authorized troop levels, MONUSCO would also soon complete the repatriation of 1,687 military personnel, he said. In areas where bases were closing, the Mission was trying a new strategy of “protection by projection” to cover more area in its civilian protection mandate.
Following that briefing, Léonard She Okitundu, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the Council that updating of the electoral list was in the final phase. About 42 million people had been registered and the electoral calendar would be published shortly, with an assessment meeting on the election timeline to be held on 12 October.
Although the Government was committed to the elections, it equally wished to avert turmoil, he said. Noting that the armed forces and MONUSCO continued their attempts to eradicate armed groups, he called on the Mission to increase the effectiveness of its rapid-intervention brigade.
He highlighted the issue of former combatants of the 23 March Movement (M23) and other groups residing in neighbouring countries, asking the Council to exert pressure on those States to resolve the situation. The situation in the provinces Kasaï and Central Kasaï was now calm, and an investigation had been started to identify perpetrators of crimes.
He called for the disengagement of United Nations forces to take place in phases. First, MONUSCO forces should leave areas where they were no longer necessary. Forces should be reduced in other areas where the level of strength was higher than warranted by threats and the rapid-intervention brigade should be the last force to leave.
Addressing concerns expressed by Mr. Sidikou and others, he said that the disproportionate use of force was not an established policy of his country’s security forces and, if it occurred, was the responsibility of individuals. The Democratic Republic of the Congo could not be compared to States with long-established democratic rules regarding freedom of demonstration. Those freedoms were not absolute but relative, and safety concerns took precedence, especially when people organized demonstrations to call for a rebellion.
The representatives of Uruguay and Bolivia also delivered statements today. Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay), noting that his country had been a troop contributor to MONUSCO and its predecessors for 17 years, urged all signatories of the 2016 agreement, including the Government, to create the necessary conditions for progress in its implementation. Expressing concern at the number of human rights violations, he called on the Government to bring perpetrators to justice, including police officers. Other concerns included reducing MONUSCO troop levels at a time of increased violence.
Marcelo Zambrana Torrelio (Bolivia) deplored recent attacks perpetrated against MONUSCO and the deteriorating security situation. Condemning actions contributing to intercommunal violence and acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, he called for bringing those involved to justice. He also called on all parties to implement confidence-building measures alongside all provisions of the 2016 agreement, stressing the importance of strengthening dialogue with regional partners.
All speakers in today’s meeting condemned the 9 October attack against the MONUSCO base in which two peacekeepers were killed and many others injured.
The meeting opened at 10:07 a.m. and closed at 10:55 a.m.