Today (5 October), the Security Council began its visiting mission to the DRC with meetings with the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and the leadership of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
Soon after arriving in Kinshasa this afternoon, Council members travelled to CENI headquarters, where they met with CENI President Corneille Nangaa. He confirmed that the country’s presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections would be held on 23 December, in line with the current electoral calendar. He said that the CENI would be open to receiving logistical support for the elections from MONUSCO, but that the government had to make this decision.
During the meeting with the CENI, much of the discussion focused on the voting machines expected to be used during the elections. At the Council’s 27 August meeting on the DRC, some members had expressed concerns about whether the machines could be expected to function effectively, and one member suggested the need for a contingency plan if they did not. Nangaa expressed confidence that the machines would work. He noted that training was being given to those who will work at the polling stations and that the general public was also being provided with information on how to operate the machines. Council members were given a demonstration of how the voting machines worked. Nangaa noted that one challenge would be voting in the parts of the country affected by insecurity and by Ebola, although he observed that the level of violence in the DRC had been higher during previous elections in 2006 and 2011.
Council members emphasised the importance of a credible, transparent, and inclusive election process during the meeting. This is a point that the Council has made repeatedly, including in resolution 2409, which renewed MONUSCO’s mandate in March, and in the Council’s joint communiqué with the AU Peace and Security Council on 19 July. Several delegations stressed that the population needed to have confidence in the political process. Nangaa emphasised the importance of the political opposition being engaged in the electoral process, including as observers at the polls. The implication seemed to be that this would enhance the credibility of the process. Three delegations highlighted the importance of women’s participation in the upcoming elections, apparently referring to their role both as candidates and voters.
Following their meeting with the CENI, Council members returned to their hotel for a meeting with the leadership of MONUSCO, including Special Representative Leila Zerrougui, Deputy Special Representatives Kim Bolduc and David Gressly, and Force Commander Elias Rodrigues Martins Filho, among others. Council members expressed widespread support for the work of the mission during the meeting. Regarding the upcoming elections, MONUSCO representatives indicated that the mission is ready to provide logistical support for the electoral process but needs the government to request such support.
There was considerable discussion during the meeting of MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians, one of the core elements of its mandate. In this regard, MONUSCO representatives noted the challenge of “protection through projection”, a strategy designed to enhance the mission’s flexibility in protecting civilians in areas where MONUSCO’s presence is limited. According to MONUSCO, the difficulty of this approach is largely due to the immense size of the DRC and the fact that troop levels are below full capacity, as two battalions have recently left the country and have yet to be replaced.
The Council will have a busy day of meetings tomorrow in Kinshasa, including with government officials, opposition parties, civil society representatives, and church officials.