United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/6)
1. 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 from 2 October to 31 December 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 and electoral developments since my last update on progress in the electoral process and implementation of the political agreement of 31 December 2016 (S/2018/1068); 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
2. The Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission met key milestones in the preparations for presidential, national and provincial legislative elections. The electoral campaign took place from 22 November to 21 December in a relatively calm atmosphere, although instances of political intolerance and violence were noted in some cities. The ruling majority, opposition parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission and civil society held divergent views regarding the use of voting machines and the review of the voter register but remained engaged in the electoral process nevertheless.
3. Opposition parties and platforms faced challenges in mounting a unified electoral campaign and mobilizing supporters nationwide. The main challenges were linked to divergent views on the issues of voting machines and the voter register, as well as coalitions that competed with each other to present a single opposition presidential candidate. Following a series of meetings and consultations to designate a single presidential candidate, the opposition eventually coalesced into two main coalitions, Lamuka and Cap pour le changement, who designated Martin Fayulu and Félix Tshisekedi as their respective flagbearers. Both coalitions managed to rally support from a few other parties and candidates, but several other candidates, including the only female presidential candidate, Marie-Josée Ifoku, continued to run their own campaigns.
4. The presidential candidate of the Front commun pour le Congo, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, commenced his electoral campaign tour in Lubumbashi in Haut-Katanga on 26 November. Félix Tshisekedi launched his campaign on 2 December with a rally in the Camp Luka neighbourhood of Kinshasa, followed by another meeting in Goma in North Kivu on 4 December. Martin Fayulu launched his campaign in Beni, North Kivu, on 5 December. Other candidates launched their campaigns in Kinshasa and several cities around the country.
5. Instances of political intolerance and violence occurred from 6 to 18 December, mainly in Kalemie, Tanganyika; Kisangani, Tshopo; the area of Kitchanga, North Kivu; Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga; and Tshikapa, Kasai, resulting in the reported deaths of at least nine civilians and one police officer as well as injuries to several others. The incidents were mainly clashes between supporters of opposing political parties that involved the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons by the police to disperse the crowds, clashes between supporters of political parties and the Congolese National Police and attacks by armed elements on campaign convoys. On 19 December, the Governor of Kinshasa Province, André Kimbuta, issued a communiqué suspending campaign activities in Kinshasa, citing security concerns, as political parties geared up to hold large rallies in the city for the last days of the campaign. Cap pour le changement and Lamuka criticized the decision, arguing that it infringed on the right of candidates to campaign freely.
6. Civil society organizations and faith-based groups, notably the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Comité laic de coordination, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission and political actors to find consensus-based solutions to the contentious issue of the use of voting machines. The Commission carried out sensitization campaigns on the use of voting machines and implemented most of the recommendations of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy with a view to instilling confidence in the use of the machines.
7. The Independent National Electoral Commission carried out the necessary technical and logistical preparations, leading to the holding of elections on 23 December. The training of 600,000 temporary staff members of the Commission; the accreditation of party witnesses, observers and journalists; the publication of provisional and final voters’ lists in polling stations; and the distribution of electoral materials proceeded without any major incidents or delays. In Kinshasa on 28 November, at a meeting of the Conseil supérieur de la défense chaired by the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police were urged to assume their responsibilities in terms of securing the electoral process and providing protection to candidates. The Government took measures to ensure the security of the presidential candidates, as required by law, including by assigning police officers to the protection of the 21 presidential candidates and deploying 12,000 Congolese National Police officers to secure the electoral process.
8. On 13 December, a fire ravaged the Independent National Electoral Commission’s central warehouse in Kinshasa. Nearly 8,000 voting machines and a large amount of other electoral equipment were destroyed by the fire. The Congolese National Police opened an investigation into the incident, while the ruling majority and the opposition traded accusations as to the possible causes and perpetrators of the fire. On 20 December, at a press conference in Kinshasa, the President of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Corneille Nangaa, announced the postponement of the elections, initially scheduled for 23 December, to 30 December, citing logistical constraints generated by the destruction of the warehouse. He stated that the decision had been made following extensive consultations with the Government, the National Council for Monitoring the Agreement and the Electoral Process and all Congolese stakeholders, including the presidential candidates. On 26 December, he issued a communiqué postponing the holding of elections in Beni town, Beni territory and Butembo in North Kivu and in Yumbi territory in Mai-Ndombe to March 2019, citing sanitary risks related to the Ebola outbreak and security reasons. On 27 and 28 December, at the initiative of civil society organizations and the Lamuka opposition coalition, demonstrations took place in Beni, Butembo and Goma in protest at the decision of the Commission. One demonstrator was reportedly killed when national security forces dispersed protests in Beni. Several civilians and at least two police officers were injured.
9. Elections took place in a generally peaceful atmosphere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 30 December. The delays and technical problems that occurred at some polling stations were addressed by the Independent National Electoral Commission as voting activities proceeded throughout the day. A technician of the Commission and a police officer were killed by a mob when violence broke out at a polling centre in Lurhala, in Walungu territory in South Kivu, amid accusations of fraud levelled against the technician. Another person died in the same incident when the police officer opened fire to disperse the mob, which had destroyed the electoral materials and ransacked the polling centre.
10. The Mission continued to stand ready to respond to any potential last-minute logistical support requests from the Independent National Electoral Commission throughout the period under review. In line with its decision to assume all financial and logistical responsibilities for organizing the elections, the Government did not request any logistical support from MONUSCO.
11. Relations between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some external partners remained tense during the electoral period. On 30 November, at a meeting with the diplomatic corps in Kinshasa, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Léonard She Okitundu, condemned the “arbitrary” sanctions of the European Union against some senior Congolese officials, including Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and warned that the Government would take retaliatory measures if the sanctions were not lifted before the holding of elections. He argued that the sanctions placed one presidential candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, at a disadvantage, as they restricted his movements and could be capitalized upon by his political opponents. On 1 December, in a press interview, President Kabila described the sanctions of the European Union as illegal, unjust, arbitrary and politically motivated and reiterated his confidence in the officials under sanctions. He also warned against what he termed the “neo-colonial tendencies” of Belgium with regard to interfering in the domestic affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 10 December, the European Union renewed restrictive measures, notably an asset freeze and a travel ban, against senior Congolese officials, including Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, for their alleged role in the obstruction of the electoral process and related human rights violations. The Spokesperson of the ruling Majorité présidentielle, André-Alain Atundu, indicated, in remarks to the press, that the sanctions were motivated by an intent to undermine the electoral process as well as the sovereignty and dignity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He added that the Government would take retaliatory measures, and noted that the decision not to accept an electoral observer mission from the European Union was the first of such measures. The Secretary-General of the Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social, Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund, welcomed the sanctions and encouraged the European Union to extend them to other Government officials who continued to enjoy impunity for alleged human rights violations. On 27 December, at a meeting with the diplomatic corps in Kinshasa, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs gave the European Union 48 hours to recall the head of its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The head of the diplomatic mission of the European Union left the country on 29 December.
12. The African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as civil society and faith-based organizations, deployed electoral observer missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
13. During the reporting period, my Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui, pursued her good offices aimed at encouraging Congolese stakeholders to create an environment conducive to the holding of peaceful, credible and transparent elections. In that regard she met on a regular basis with representatives of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political parties, civil society groups and presidential candidates, as well as with the Presidents of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the National Council for Monitoring the Agreement and the Electoral Process and the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel et de la communication. She engaged with leaders across the political spectrum and urged them to refrain from violence and use dialogue and legal means to address electoral disputes.
14. In other developments, the Government, in line with its national commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, took action towards the holding of elections, including through the promotion of the participation of women in the elections, and towards the mainstreaming of Framework priorities into the Government’s strategic national development plan, which was pending finalization.