Report of the Secretary-General - United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/2018/655)
- The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 59 of Security Council resolution 2409 (2018). It covers major developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the period from 27 March 2018 to 29 June 2018. The report describes progress in the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); provides an overview of political developments following my previous update on progress in the electoral process and implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement (see S/2018/528); outlines progress in adjustments to the Mission’s priorities, posture and presence as well as the pursuit of its comprehensive approach to the protection of civilians; and provides information on the performance of MONUSCO uniformed personnel.
II. Major developments
A. Political situation
Preparations for and disputes in relation to the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 23 December 2018 continued to dominate the political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On 25 May, the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF) concluded an independent audit of the voter register and issued a preliminary report, noting that the voter register was “inclusive, exhaustive and updated, but required improvements”. OIF cited as a concern the fact that 16.6 per cent of voters — over 6.5 million — had been registered without all 10 fingerprints. Under Congolese law, the absence of fingerprint registration is not a reason to exclude voters, who can be identified by other means. OIF recommended that the Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) publish the provisional lists as soon as possible.
On 28 May, five major political parties and platforms — including Union pour la démocratie et le progrès Social (UDPS), Dynamique de l’opposition, Union pour la nation congolaise (UNC), Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), and Ensemble pour le changement — rejected the main conclusion of the audit and requested the removal from the voter register of individuals for whom no biometric data had been recorded, the publication of the voter list by registration centres, the replacement of the president of CENI and the replacement of the UDPS-nominated CENI rapporteur. In contrast, during a press conference held on 5 June, André Atundu, the spokesperson of the Majorité présidentielle, welcomed the conclusion of the OIF audit.
In addition to the criticisms relating to the integrity of the voter register, opposition parties and civil society groups continue to question the planned use of voting machines and the persistent lack of political space. On 5 June, in interviews with local media, Jean-Marc Kabund, the Secretary-General of UDPS, warned that the party’s participation in upcoming polls could be conditional upon the resolution of concerns relating to the voter registry, the voting machine and the replacement of the CENI rapporteur.
Regarding the voting machines, the CENI sensitization campaign is ongoing in the country’s 26 provincial capitals, where a total of 200 machines have been deployed. The campaign is scheduled to be expanded beyond those capitals in the coming weeks. On 7 June, CENI announced that, by the end of September, it will have received all 106,000 voting machines to be used during the elections. However, CENI is yet to communicate to MONUSCO a request for the delivery of the machines.
The Mission’s current plan is therefore based on the official request for logistical assistance shared by CENI on 30 November 2017. MONUSCO has notified CENI that the lack of clarity on and the late arrival of electoral materials, including voting machines, would reduce the time frame for deployment and require adjustments to logistical preparations.
In the meantime, on 8 June, the National Assembly adopted two amendments to the voter registration law and the electoral law, which effectively exclude Congolese living abroad from participating in the upcoming presidential elections, contrary to initial plans. Days before the vote, the president of CENI had noted that the enrolment of Congolese living abroad presented a significant logistical challenge. At the end of its ordinary session, which concluded on 15 June, Parliament did not, however, examine a proposed amendment to the current law on public demonstrations that had been tabled by the Government.
While the Government and CENI appear to be making progress in technical preparations for the elections, the implementation of the confidence-building measures provided for in the political agreement of 31 December 2016 continues to lag. The Government continued to restrict the activities of civil society organizations and journalists. By mid-June, some 118 political prisoners remained in detention. The ban on demonstrations and political gatherings has not been formally lifted. However, political opposition groupings have been able to hold public gatherings without incident over the past four weeks. On 9 June, Ensemble pour le changement, the political platform led by Moïse Katumbi, held a public meeting in Kinshasa which Mr. Katumbi addressed via video link.
Speculation around a possible referendum to amend the Constitution — including to allow the President, Joseph Kabila to run for another term — has persisted during the reporting period. Meanwhile, political parties both from the Majorité présidentielle and the opposition continue to form alliances and coalitions ahead of the 23 December polls. Whereas members of the Majorité présidentielle have pledged to promote a joint candidate for the presidential election, several political platforms of the opposition have designated their own candidates. In early June, the Majorité présidentielle and many political parties of the opposition serving in the Government established an electoral platform called Front commun pour le Congo (FCC). President Kabila was designated as the platform’s “moral authority”. In response, some opposition parties denounced the creation of the platform, portraying it as a violation of the 31 December agreement.
On 7 June, Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the founding president of the MLC political party, was acquitted by the appeal chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of earlier convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Opposition parties, including UNC and the Ensemble political platform welcomed the acquittal as a positive development that would boost the ranks of the opposition at the upcoming elections.
External partners of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to express their willingness to support elections, while warning against further postponement. The African Union and OIF reiterated their availability to respond to any requests for expertise and other types of support.
On 28 May, during a press conference held in Paris, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the President of Angola, João Lourenço, called for the full implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement, with the latter voicing his opposition to the possibility that President Kabila could run for a third term in office. This appeared to echo a statement, on 23 May, by President Macron, following a meeting with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. In response, the Government in Kinshasa issued a strong protest, affirming the primacy of national sovereignty and rejecting foreign interference.
My Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, continued to hold consultations with national stakeholders — including President Kabila, the Prime Minister, Bruno Tshibala, representatives of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political parties and civil society — in line with her good offices mandate to build confidence in the political and electoral process. She also continued to undertake engagements at the regional level. In this connection, on 31 May she met with the Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Zachary Muburi-Muita. From 31 May to 2 June, she visited the Republic of the Congo and met with the President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and with the Foreign Minister, Jean-Claude Gakosso, to discuss the political and security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the implementation of the MONUSCO mandate.
On 30 April, my Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Saïd Djinnit, met the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, in Entebbe, Uganda, to exchange views on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, as well as on regional relations. President Museveni deplored the continued insecurity in eastern Congo and called for the strengthening of governance in the country.