Political brinkmanship and a refusal to compromise will see further delays in preparations for elections and deepening of the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), gripped by a recent spate of violent protests, the United Nations peacekeeping chief told the Security Council this week.
In a briefing, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said despite significant progress in preparations for elections, the implementation of the December 31, 2016 political agreement remains only partial.
That agreement – facilitated by Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) mediators – allowed President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his term and stipulated that peaceful, credible and inclusive elections would be organised in the DRC by the end of December 2017.
The polls were reportedly pushed back to December 2018, sparking violent protests in December.
Lacroix condemned violent repression of the demonstrations by Congolese National Security Forces and called on national authorities to carry out the necessary investigations to bring to justice alleged perpetrators of human rights violations.
“Given the stakes, it is essential all players in the Congolese political class renounce any act that may lead to violence,” he said urging political stakeholders to be constructive in implementation of the electoral calendar, warning refusals to compromise would deepen the political crisis.
Lacroix also said it was imperative for the DRC’s partners to provide sufficient political, logistical and financial support for the conduct of credible elections. He noted delays would not only risk fuelling political tensions but would aggravate an already fragile security situation.
In this context, he told the Council in recent months, armed groups in eastern DRC launched repeated attacks on positions of the Congolese Army, with a severe impact on the civilian population.
Turning to his recent visit to Semuliki, where an attack on a base of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) by suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and wounded 43 others. He said the Secretary General appointed former Assistant Secretary General Dmitry Titov to lead a special investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Lacroix said preparations were underway to ensure the deployment next month of a third rapid deployment battalion. He said members of these units were training in jungle combat to enable them to evolve more effectively in the asymmetrical environment they would operate in.
He stressed the asymmetrical nature of threats posed by ADF rebels and other armed groups needed stronger regional co-operation, as well as information gathering and analysis, as well as interrupting the political and economic support systems of the group. In addition to targeted military operations, he called for strengthened co-operation between MONUSCO and the national Congolese security forces, FARDC.