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Updated On: Saturday, 21 July 2018
Development Issues

Speakers Concerned About Violent Protests over Delayed Presidential Election as Security Council Discusses Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Content by: UN News Centre

Discussing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, Security Council members expressed their concern about the recent protests in the country over the delays in holding presidential elections, as well as violence last December that left 15 United Nations peacekeepers dead and many others wounded.

Presenting the report of the Secretary‑General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2018/16), Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement signed last December had given the Council great hope, but one year later its implementation was still incomplete.  In addition, violent demonstrations showed that the situation in the country remained fragile.

On a more positive note, preparations for the upcoming elections were advancing despite continued political tensions, he said.  The electoral calendar had been published, the amended electoral law had been promulgated by the President, and the voter registration process was near completion.  To support those efforts, MONUSCO had enhanced its support to the political and electoral processes and continued to provide logistical and technical support to the Electoral Commission for voter registration and other electoral activities.

The Secretary‑General had appointed former Assistant Secretary‑General Dmitry Titov to lead a special investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident in North Kivu that resulted in the deaths of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and the wounding of 44 others, said Mr. Lacroix, noting that it was the latest in a string of deadly attacks perpetrated by suspected Allied Democratic Forces.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo emphasized that the focus of all political actors had been on the electoral process and the efforts to revise the electoral register.  The country’s President had underscored in a public address that the authorities were determined to hold elections.  He cautioned, however, that fringe groups of the opposition were not ready to take part in them.

Referring to the holding of public demonstrations, he said that they were regulated by legislation that required the submission of a request to authorities to ensure order and protect demonstrators.  The organizers of the 31 December demonstrations did not comply with those requirements, he said.  The Congolese national police had not recorded any deaths in places of worship that were associated with those demonstrations, and the only recorded violent deaths on that date had nothing to do with the protests.

Sweden’s representative noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo faced surging humanitarian needs, and that the lack of resilience among the population had made it vulnerable to conflict.  There were more people forced to flee their homes in that country in 2017 than in any other country in the world, he said.

The representative of Bolivia said that the threat of armed groups had led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had resulted in the internal displacement of 4 million people.  On the upcoming elections, he welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and underscored the importance of holding timely, credible voting that resulted in the peaceful transfer of power.

Also highlighting the need for credible elections in the country, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that it was up to all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure that the 23 December 2018 election date was respected.  The parties involved should also work towards the establishment of conditions that were conducive to the holding of democratic and peaceful voting, he said.

Delegates also denounced the incident in North Kivu, with the representative of Kuwait condemning the repeated attacks against MONUSCO, including the armed attack of 7 December 2017.  He called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

The representative of the Netherlands noted that her delegation approved of the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the attack in order to determine how MONUSCO should be reformed to ensure its ability to protect civilians.  The suffering of the Congolese people had reached unimaginable levels, she said, pointing out that the country’s famine was man‑made, and that 7.7 million people faced severe food shortages.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Equatorial Guinea, Poland and Peru.

The meeting began at 9:39 a.m. and ended at 10:57 a.m.

Briefing

JEAN‑PIERRE LACROIX, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, presenting the report of the Secretary‑General on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (document S/2018/16), said that last year the Council had met with great hope regarding the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement signed on 31 December 2016.  One year later, he regretted that implementation of the agreement was incomplete.  Violent demonstrations last year showed that the situation in the country was still fragile.  The death of Tanzanian peacekeepers underscored the volatility of certain parts of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, while civilian United Nations workers were also exposed to security risks.  The delays in the country’s electoral process had created tensions that led to the violence last December.

Although political tension persisted, electoral preparations were advancing, he said.  The long‑awaited electoral calendar was published on 5 November 2017, the amended electoral law was promulgated by the President on 24 December 2017 and the voter registration process was expected to conclude in February.  It was essential that all political actors play a constructive role in the implementation of the electoral calendar and that the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s political leaders adhered to the Constitution, the Political Agreement and the electoral calendar.  Further delays in the electoral process risked fuelling political tensions and compounding an already fragile security situation.

In late September, MONUSCO acted decisively in support of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in repelling an attack by Mayi‑Mayi Yakutumba on Uvira, the second largest city of South Kivu, he said.  MONUSCO’s actions, which were critical in preventing the fall of the city, were a tangible demonstration of the Mission’s readiness to take measures against armed groups that pose a threat to the civilian population.  In Beni territory, North Kivu, the Allied Democratic Forces resurfaced last year and carried out deadly attacks against civilians, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO.

Mr. Lacroix said that the killing of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and the wounding of 44 others on 7 December was the latest in a string of deadly attacks perpetrated by suspected Allied Democratic Forces elements.  During his visit to Semuliki shortly after the incident, he witnessed the difficult terrain in which the Force Intervention Brigade operated.  Despite the heavy losses sustained by the Tanzanian troops, he was reassured by the Tanzanian authorities in Dar Es Salaam that they remained committed to addressing the threat posed by the Allied Democratic Forces and other armed groups in the eastern part of the country.  As part of the Secretariat’s response to the Semuliki incident, the Secretary‑General had appointed former Assistant Secretary‑General Dmitry Titov to lead a special investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

MONUSCO had enhanced its support to the political and electoral processes and was making the necessary adjustments to its civilian, police and military components to enable a comprehensive approach to the protection of civilians, including monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation, he said.  Preparations were under way for the deployment of a third rapidly deployable battalion, which would be operational by next month.  The redeployment of the Senegalese formed police unit from Goma to Kinshasa was almost complete, with the unit expected to be fully operational by the end of the week.  On the political and electoral front, he noted that MONUSCO continued to provide logistical and technical support to the Electoral Commission for voter registration and other electoral activities.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) strongly condemned the violence committed during the 31 December protests and reiterated the need for respect for human rights and the right to peaceful demonstrations.  His delegation called for the proportionate use of force to maintain order.  Credible, transparent and peaceful elections were necessary for the stability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the entire region.  He called for the holding of elections, according to the electoral calendar published on 5 November 2017, in line with the terms of the Constitution and in a spirit of consensus.  He called on the Congolese authorities to take all steps necessary to enable the quick deployment of the joint team of international experts to support the electoral process.  The 31 December 2016 Political Agreement remained as essential as ever and its comprehensive implementation was urgent as well as critical for holding credible and peaceful elections.  No credible electoral process could take place in the context of repression, he stressed, adding that the security and humanitarian situation was troubling, and the stagnation in the political process would threaten the entire region.  MONUSCO was carrying out critical work in a difficult environment, despite facing severe challenges.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) was pleased at the publication of the electoral calendar and believed it was now up to all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure that the 23 December 2018 date for the holding of general elections was respected, in line with the commitments freely undertaken by the parties.  Those parties must now work toward establishing the conditions conducive to the holding of democratic, credible and peaceful elections.  His delegation was concerned by the recent protests that led to the loss of life and significant material damage as well as many arrests of protestors.  He called on all political stakeholders to exercise restraint and avoid any violent protests.  Côte d’Ivoire was pleased to see unity among the Council members and the tireless efforts of the United Nations to build enhanced synergy with other international and regional organizations with a view toward emerging from the crisis.  His delegation expressed concern about the growing insecurity and widespread violations of human rights stoked by the proliferation of armed groups across the country.  He condemned the attacks carried out by those groups leading to the deaths of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers.  Those armed groups seriously jeopardized stability in the entire region and undermined efforts to overcome the crisis, and in that context, appropriate measures to neutralize those groups must be a priority for MONUSCO.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that his delegation had always closely followed events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it was a brother country whose problems it could not stand by and watch because it saw them as its own.  The various Congolese political and social actors must understand that the only possible avenue to extricate the Democratic Republic of the Congo from its current situation was through transparent and frank dialogue.  The need for the various actors to understand each other stemmed from the enormous responsibility they had to lead the country to fair elections.  All groups should join the process of political dialogue, and the Government should play a proactive role as far as the legislative and logistical aspects were concerned.  The contribution of various international bodies including the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, the European Union and others, was essential if there was to be a lasting solution.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) condemned the violence that occurred on 31 December and the threat of armed groups that had led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, which had resulted in the internal displacement of more than 4 million people in the country.  He commended the efforts of humanitarian partners and urged them to continue their work.  He also encouraged MONUSCO to bolster its presence around the Semuliki base following the horrible attack that took place against peacekeepers on 7 December 2017.  He supported local conflict resolution mechanisms that promoted peaceful coexistence among communities, as well as any initiative for the benefit of peace and stability in the region, in coordination with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and called for the implementation of the timetable and the completion of voter registration.  It was important to hold timely, credible elections that lead to a peaceful transition of power, he said.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) recalled that a year ago, the 31 December Political Agreement provided a ray of hope, yet today the challenge was to find a new source of hope that the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be resolved.  She welcomed the publication of the electoral calendar and emphasized that Congolese citizens hoped to cast their votes in a free election, yet those hopes were in jeopardy.  Peaceful political protests had been met with force, and the goal of free and fair elections was becoming a mirage.  She called for respect for human rights by the security forces.  The lack of the implementation of confidence‑building measures agreed upon undermined the efforts to hold the elections.  All parties must reassert their commitment to the spirit of the agreement and the electoral calendar.  Her delegation approved of the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the recent attacks against Blue Helmets in the country to determine how MONUSCO should be reformed to ensure the ability to protect civilians.  The suffering of the Congolese people had reached unimaginable levels, she said, with 7.7 million people facing severe food shortages and 2 million children facing severe malnutrition.  The country’s famine was man‑made and it would require an integrated response with a strong humanitarian aspect.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) strongly condemned the attacks against MONUSCO personnel and expressed concern about the recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Government must comply with its international obligations and protect the right to free assembly and freedom of speech.  She took note of the long‑awaited publication of the electoral calendar and said it was important to ensure that elections would be held on 23 December 2018, while also avoiding further tension or the escalation of violence in the country.  She emphasized the importance of the voter registration process and encouraged women to take part in the electoral process.  She encouraged further political dialogue among all actors and believed that regional organizations could play a constructive role in the stabilization process.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) underscored that the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had continued to evolve, including the recent establishment of an electoral calendar, the holding of peaceful protests that were met with violence, as well as the deaths of 15 peacekeepers.  Given the worsening security situation in the country, the surging humanitarian needs and the fragile political situation, the key to the democratic transition of power would be the holding of credible and transparent elections.  Important building blocks for the elections were already in place, he noted, adding that stakeholders now needed to constructively contribute to ensuring those elections were held.  Dialogue and coordination with the region remained key, and the Council should continue to closely follow the situation.  The Government must implement the confidence‑building measures that had been agreed upon, and in that context, he deplored the recent reports of violations of human rights in the country.  Ensuring women’s full participation in the elections, including safe access to polling stations, was of great importance to his delegation.  The lack of resilience among the population made it extremely vulnerable to conflict, with more people having been forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2017 than any other country in the world.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) reiterated the importance of abiding by the appointed date to hold elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018, and underscored that it was equally important to ensure that the process was fair and transparent so that it would be accepted by all stakeholders.  Maintaining the international community’s support was essential to ensure that the elections took place in a climate of calm and to ensure that the transition of power occurred by the end of the year.  He underscored the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that was primarily affecting children and stressed that the international community and donors should present a solution to that problem.  He also drew attention to the economic crisis and the inflation that was affecting the most vulnerable.  The role of women and children in the political process was important, and he supported any work by MONUSCO to involve them in that process.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) condemned the repeated attacks against MONUSCO, including the armed attack that took place on 7 December 2017, which resulted in the killing of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers.  He called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice.  He had followed the protests that took place at the end of 2017 with concern, noting that they occurred against the backdrop of the delay of elections.  With regard to the humanitarian situation, he expressed concern over the figures reported on that situation by the Secretary‑General, particularly over the number of displaced persons.

IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that over the last three months, the attention of all political actors had been focused on the electoral process and efforts to revise the electoral register, which had entered its final phase and would be completed by the end of the month.  The number of registered voters was more than 45.8 million, including some 24 million men and 21.7 million women.  The President had underscored in a recent address to the country that the authorities were determined to hold elections.  All active political forces must work together to uphold the electoral calendar, he stressed, pointing out that the opposition was against any compromise and continued to be very active.  While waiting for the elections, all political actors and citizens should do everything possible to prepare for the smooth holding of those elections in a peaceful atmosphere.

Fringe groups of the opposition were not ready to take part in any elections, he said.  The holding of public demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was regulated by legislation, which required the submission of a request to the competent authorities to ensure order and to protect demonstrators, if necessary.  The organizers of the 31 December demonstrations did not comply with those legal procedures, he said.  The Congolese national police did not record any deaths in places of worship associated with the demonstrations, he underlined, and across the national territory, the only recorded violent deaths on that date had nothing to do with the demonstrations.  Regarding the security forces that had entered places of worship, those actions had been condemned by the Governor of the affected city and an investigation would be conducted.  The Government regretted the events that had unnecessarily taken place, given that the electoral register and calendar had already been established.

On the confidence‑building measures, all the so‑called political prisoners had been released except for two prisoners that were being held for unrelated issues, he said.  Those individuals were being prosecuted for violations of common law.  The security situation had improved in most conflict‑affected areas, despite the fact that the Secretary‑General’s report highlighted increased activities by armed groups.  His Government condemned the attacks against the peacekeepers that had resulted in the loss of life.  National armed forces would continue their efforts, in cooperation with MONUSCO, to eradicate armed groups to ensure that the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo could live in peace.  Authorities had worked diligently to repatriate or resettle combatants in third countries.  It was important to note that the Government would like to see the strategic dialogue accelerated so that the next Secretary‑General report on the situation in the country provided a coordinated vision that included the perspective of both parties.

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