8331st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Democratic Republic of Congo

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27-Aug-2018 01:51:48
Security Council urges Democratic Republic of Congo to resolve outstanding problems in less than four months before critical elections at 8331st meeting.

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With fewer than four months remaining until critical elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Security Council members today urged that country’s Government to resolve outstanding disputes, build trust among the participating parties and avoid any actions that could jeopardize the nation’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power.

In particular, speakers welcomed President Joseph Kabila’s decision not to seek a third term in office and the Kinshasa Government’s decisive leadership in funding and organizing the upcoming elections. However, some voiced concern over its refusal to accept assistance from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and reports that both opposition voices and peaceful protests have been suppressed.

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of MONUSCO, briefed the Council, outlining the tangible progress made in the lead‑up to the elections. Noting that 6 of the 25 candidates put forward during the nomination phase were disqualified — including former Vice‑President Jean-Pierre Bemba — she cautioned that any impression that the Independent National Electoral Commission has overstepped its remit risks undermining the whole electoral process. While MONUSCO is ready to assist if requested to do so, the Government has indicated that it does not desire any external support, she said. The parties must “iron out any differences”, she added, declaring: “With less than four months to go […] it is clear that the required level of confidence and consensus around key issues still need to be built.”

Marcel Utembi, President of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, also cited progress that would hopefully lead to elections taking place in a peaceful climate and a spirit of patriotism. Pressing the Government to respect the 31 December 2016 Saint‑Sylvestre political agreement, he voiced concern that any bias in the electoral process will keep the Democratic Republic of the Congo mired in crisis. Citing the lack of consensus around the use of voting machines and de‑escalation measures, among other challenges, he recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission quickly publish the list of positions up for election and promote dialogue among the presidential majority, the opposition as well as national and international experts. For its part, the National Episcopal Conference plans to deploy more than 1,000 election observers and supports efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to achieve peace in the country, he said.

Solange Lwashiga Furaha, Spokesperson for the non‑governmental organization Rien Sans Les Femmes, recalled the participation of Congolese women in the 2006 elections as voters, observers, candidates and witnesses. Between 2011 and 2018, however, the motivation of women candidates dropped due to the lack of financial and political resources as well as issues around identity cards. Noting that her organization’s goal is to achieve gender equality in decision‑making at all levels, she recalled its petition to Parliament — with some 23,000 signatories — requesting the lifting of obstacles to women’s participation. Nevertheless, current electoral lists reveal a low percentage of women, with many people remaining reticent about women voting, and fear persisting over the potential for gender‑based violence before, during and after the voting.

As Council members took the floor, Equatorial Guinea’s delegate urged all parties to refrain from intimidation or provocative acts that could stoke violence. “Congolese stakeholders must set common goals that will move the country forward,” he emphasized. In addition, the Government must promptly address all doubts related to the use of voting machines — among other outstanding challenges — and avail itself of support from partners and work to enhance confidence‑building measures among the parties.

France’s representative described the upcoming elections as a “watershed”, and a chance for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to recommit to a path of peace. The election must take place in a climate of trust, she stressed, calling for the lifting of the general ban on protests, the inclusion of women and the release of political prisoners, in accordance with the Saint‑Sylvestre agreement. She joined other speakers in voicing concern that escalating insecurity in the country’s Kasaï region — and the recent Ebola outbreak, which the Council plans to discuss this week — could hamper the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States welcomed President Kabila’s decision not to seek a third term, declaring: “History will look favourably on President Kabila’s decision if it translates to free and credible elections.” However, she expressed concerns about several important logistical issues, including those relating to electronic voting machines, saying the Government should permit MONUSCO to provide support. Such assistance does not insult the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s sovereignty, but its acceptance of humanitarian assistance from outside partners — but not of electoral support — raises suspicions.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said his country’s electoral process has reached its “cruise speed” and is approaching its destination. While the Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission have made enormous efforts, some scepticism remains about voting machines, and a campaign to raise awareness on their use is now under way. Noting that the Electoral Commission is working to fulfil recommendations by the International Organization of la Francophonie, which conducted an audit of the electoral process, he said the disqualification of some candidates was decided on the basis of their not having fulfilled legal requirements. However, the Government is open to support from partners as long as it comes without preconditions and respects the country’s sovereignty, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, China, Poland, Sweden, Bolivia, Kuwait and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:54 a.m.
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