A decade of relative stability is at risk from rising polarisation over the delayed organisation of elections and President Joseph Kabila’s determination to stay in power beyond his constitutional time limit in December 2016. Crisis Group is alerting policymakers to the threat of popular violence, harsh crackdowns by the security forces and the continued threats posed by existing and emerging armed groups. Through advocacy based on field-researched analysis of national and local political dynamics and regional diplomacy, we seek to persuade domestic rivals to compromise in their disputes, to create a consensus among stakeholders on a transition to credible elections, and to persuade African and Western powers to coordinate their efforts to end the Congolese crisis.
In the years right after apartheid fell, South Africa was a leader in continental diplomacy, brokering peace accords and bolstering multilateral institutions. Its role subsequently diminished, but today it is well placed to make a positive difference in several trouble spots.
Armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) early-April stepped up deadly attacks in north-eastern Ituri province, threatening provincial capital, before military launched counter-offensive; tit-for-tat violence left at least 169 dead throughout month. In Ituri, CODECO militants early April gained control of several localities in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories, getting close to provincial capital Bunia. Notably, CODECO attacks in Djugu 10-13 April killed at least 69 civilians and sixteen security forces personnel. Military 17 April said it had recaptured fourteen localities from CODECO control in operations 8-17 April in Djugu and Mahagi territories. Clashes between govt forces and CODECO continued in several territories in Ituri late month, reportedly killing at least 40 militants, six security forces personnel and 38 civilians 19-28 April. Violence also continued in other areas. In North Kivu province, armed group Allied Democratic Forces 6 and 13 April killed eight civilians in Beni territory; unidentified assailants 24 April killed thirteen park rangers and five civilians in attack in Virunga national park; after park authorities accused rebel group Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda of involvement, Rwandan rebels 27 April denied involvement and blamed Rwandan govt forces for attack. In Tanganyika province, Twa militiamen 8 April killed seven civilians in Nyunzu territory. In Kongo Central province, clashes between members of separatist religious cult Bundu Dia Kongo and authorities 13-24 April left at least 33 dead, including civilians; police 24 April arrested cult leader in capital Kinshasa. After former President Kabila allies within ruling coalition challenged constitutional legality of COVID-19 state of emergency declared by President Tshisekedi 24 March without parliamentary approval, Constitutional Court 13 April backed measure. Authorities 8 April arrested Tshisekedi’s chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation (UCN) party Vital Kamerhe on embezzlement charges, prompting protests in following days by UCN supporters in cities of Bukavu and Goma in east.
Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.
The Security Council has an opening to rethink its approach to DR Congo with this month’s mandate renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission. The council should prioritise local conflict resolution and bolstering President Tshisekedi’s efforts to improve regional relations to combat over 100 armed groups ravaging the east.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
The ICC’s acquittal of Jean-Pierre Bemba comes at a critical point in DR Congo elections. President Kabila and his opponents will have to recalibrate strategies ahead of Bemba’s likely return. Outside powers should keep pressing Kabila to stand down and allow opposition candidates to participate.
A moment of waning international attention has led some in President Kabila’s camp to revisit the idea of an internationally-opposed third presidential term. African and Western leaders must maintain unity, redouble efforts to dissuade Kabila from pursuing this course and ensure preparations for elections in 2018 continue apace.
Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been postponed since December 2016, but now seem to be slated for the end of the year. All parties should work to ensure credible polls, the best hope for a peaceful transfer of power.
[The Allied Democratic Forces in DR Congo] have a very brutal way of killing the civilians and they don’t differentiate. They kill women, children, men.
[President of DR Congo] Tshisekedi's swearing-in is often sold as selling out democracy in favor of stability. But it’s pragmatic and based on developments on the ground.
The [DR Congo] regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through.
We have a date [for DR Congo's presidential election], and it is technically feasible to organise [them] for the end of next year. Whether it is politically realistic is another question.
There is evident concern of growing instability and a frustration [in DR Congo] at the political blockage that is fueling popular frustration and the spread of violence in the country.
[A statement by former African leaders could bridge] the gap between sitting African leaders, who are putting little pressure on Kabila, and the west, who are imposing sanctions and demanding an election.
On 20 May prominent opposition leader and businessman Moïse Katumbi returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo from exile. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Deputy Project Director for Central Africa Nelleke van de Walle discusses the possible impact on Congolese politics, five months after Felix Tshisekedi’s controversial election as president.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
The DR Congo is facing a major political crisis over the 30 December election’s result. A recount would allow subsequent negotiations to take place on the basis of a clear understanding of who won.
The Democratic Republic of Congo awaits the official results of 30 December 2018 elections, amid hints that unofficial numbers show an opposition presidential candidate winning. Conflicting tallies could spark violence. Outside powers should stand together in urging calm and careful verification of the electoral outcome.