Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo presented the Belgian policy regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, in a session behind closed doors.
The Ministers are concerned about the human rights situation in the DRC as well as the security situation in various provinces. They condemn the actions of security forces on 31st of December and call upon an independent inquiry, also to establish individual responsibilities. They are convinced that only credible elections can offer a way out, since the constitutional mandates in Congo have expired for over a year. The measures foreseen in the New Year’s Eve agreement of 2016 in order to decrease tensions and open up the democratic space should urgently be implemented. The Ministers emphasize that political will is needed in order to move forwards with the organisation of elections. They confirm that Belgium is prepared to contribute to free and transparent elections.
Considering the increased humanitarian needs and the changed political situation, a fundamental review of our cooperation is inevitable. As such, it has been decided to end a number of interventions which were to be executed directly through the Congolese government. It concerns a total of 25 million EUR worth of initiatives which have not yet been signed, or which were already suspended. However, Belgium wishes to strengthen its solidarity with the Congolese people and has therefore decided to allocate these means to humanitarian aid and other initiatives which respond to the most pressing needs of the population.
As a consequence, humanitarian aid to the DRC will be increased this year to 25 million EUR. In addition, an increased cooperation with non-governmental organisations will be pursued. The new Belgian development agency, Enabel, will also be instructed to support local organisations from the Congolese civil society in the field of human rights and political freedom. Finally, a future bilateral cooperation agreement with the Congolese government will only be concluded once credible elections have taken place, on the basis of principles of good governance.
Belgium remains a committed partner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. While it is not always obvious, Belgium remains in contact with all parties: majority, opposition and the civil society. The Ministers will put Congo on the European international agenda, also in order to raise awareness for the humanitarian needs of the population. They will equally continue to engage with international partners and countries from the region.