An inclusive and credible dialogue among Congolese stakeholders is the only realistic way to defuse political tensions, overcome the electoral impasse and prevent violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where public discontent is being fueled by delays in the electoral process and shrinking democratic space, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson warned today.
Briefing the Security Council, Mr. Eliasson painted a troubling picture of the situation in the vast Great Lakes nation, where he said political tensions are rising ahead of the constitutionally envisaged presidential and legislative elections. Moreover, delays in the electoral process, a debate around the respect for the Constitution, and increasing restrictions on democratic space are fueling polarization and public discontent.
And with the political dialogue proposed by President Joseph Kabila facing uncertainty and no agreement on the terms under which the dialogue should be held, and who should participate, there is a real risk that political actors could resort to unilateral decisions which may compound existing political tensions, Mr. Eliasson explained.
“Such a dialogue should result in an inclusive agreement that could lead to credible presidential and legislative elections. Without it, we face the risk of a severe crisis with a high probability of violence and persistent instability,” he warned, adding that such a tragic but still preventable outcome would not only reverse the political, security and development gains of the past few years.
It would also require a response that goes beyond the capacity of the UN stabilization mission on the ground there, known by the French acronym, MONUSCO.
“I therefore need to convey the Secretary-General’s serious call for all Congolese political stakeholders to give dialogue a chance, engage in good faith and place the interests of their nation first,” Mr. Eliasson said, spotlighting elements that could support such inclusive dialogue:
- The international support group to the facilitation efforts of former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo could make an important contribution to build confidence in the process;
- A reliable voter register could help defuse tensions and pave the way for transparent and credible elections. MONUSCO is providing technical assistance and logistical support for the revision of the register; and
- As called for by the Council, MONUSCO has updated its plans to address security risks and to monitor human rights violations and abuses in the context of the elections. The protection of civilians will remain a key priority of the Mission, including in the context of the electoral process.
Turning to the in eastern DRC, in particular in a number of territories in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, he said the security situation remains extremely serious.
“There is reason to be particularly concerned about the situation in Beni, where the Allied Democratic Forces (ADR) have carried out deadly attacks against defenceless civilians, [the national forces of the DRC] – the FARDC – and MONUSCO,” he said, raising concerns also about intercommunal tensions and violence in Lubero and Walikale territories, in North Kivu.
At the same time, he noted that the resumption of active military cooperation between the FARDC and MONUSCO in operations against the ADF and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in North Kivu is encouraging and is helping to address the threat which armed groups pose to the civilian population in the east.
“Ultimately, the threat posed by armed groups, exacerbated by underlying socio-economic and political problems can only be addressed through a combination of military pressure and political measures,” Mr. Eliasson said, noting that to preserve the significant gains that had been made in the country “political leaders must listen to the aspirations of their people, who have suffered for far too long from continuous political crises and violent conflicts.”
Dialogue, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and democratic participation and practices are the best way to prevent continued violence and suffering, explained the deputy UN chief, stating that he counted on the Security Council to give its full and steadfast support to dialogue and for the strengthening of democratic practices in the DRC.
“What is at stake here, basically, is the long-term stability of the DRC – and you know the importance and size of that country – and the Great Lakes region. The international community and the United Nations have invested heavily in the DRC. We must preserve and build on the progress made,” he said, urging the DRC “to move from discussions and intentions to action,” and calling on the wider international community to proactively engage with all parties to defuse tensions and “point to a path to the dialogue that is so vital and urgent.”