The Security Council leaves today on a visiting mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that will run from Friday (5 October) through Sunday (7 October). This will be the Council’s 14th visit to the DRC. The most recent Council visiting mission to the DRC was in November 2016, amidst concerns about a political crisis prompted by the delay in the presidential, legislative and provincial elections. Those elections have yet to take place and are now scheduled for 23 December 2018.
During the visit, Council members are expected to remain in the capital city, Kinshasa, where they will engage with senior government officials, politicians, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), civil society representatives (including women’s organisations), church officials, and representatives of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
While the visiting mission is expected to include meetings on the overall security, humanitarian, and human rights situations in the country, it seems that a major focus will be on political issues, including the preparations for the upcoming elections. According to an agreement reached between President Joseph Kabila and the opposition on 31 December 2016, elections were to be held by the end of 2017, and Kabila would not run for a third term or initiate amendments to the constitution. Citing logistical difficulties, CENI eventually published a new electoral calendar for combined presidential, legislative and provincial elections to take place on 23 December 2018. Although Kabila’s intentions regarding the elections were unclear for several months, his party finally nominated former Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate on 8 August, the last day for submitting candidates’ names. Kabila’s decision not to run was broadly welcomed internationally, although the EU has imposed sanctions on Shadary, citing his role in arresting opposition members and activists and violently repressing dissent.
While members are likely to welcome steps that have been taken towards holding the elections, they are also expected to reiterate with their Congolese interlocutors the importance of a transparent, credible, inclusive and peaceful electoral process. This is a point that the Council has repeatedly emphasised, 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.
Meetings with senior government officials, with a wide range of political actors—including representatives of the Common Front for Congo (FCC), which consists of parties from the ruling coalition, and with various opposition parties—and with the CENI will most likely focus largely on the electoral preparations. Members may ask that any requests for the UN’s technical or logistical support for the elections be made expeditiously. While the CENI had originally asked for logistical support from MONUSCO, “recent public statements by officials of the Government and the Commission [i.e. the CENI] have indicated that the Commission intends to hold the elections without support from external partners”, according to the Secretary-General’s 24 August 30-day update on electoral preparations (S/2018/786) in the DRC.
In meetings with government officials, some members may use the opportunity to express concern over the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the DRC. In this regard, there may be calls for accountability for those who commit violations of international humanitarian law or human rights abuses.
A meeting with several religious groups has been planned. The conference of Catholic bishops, the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), will probably be among the groups with which the Council will meet. CENCO helped to mediate the 31 December 2016 agreement. Its president, Monseigneur Marcel Utembi, briefed the Security Council on 27 August, sharing his views on the electoral process.
The focus of the meetings with civil society representatives will most likely be the upcoming elections, and there may be a wider discussion with some civil society members about the broader security and humanitarian situation in the DRC.
A series of meetings with MONUSCO and other UN staff is expected. These will focus broadly on the political, security, humanitarian and human rights situations in the country. In addition to interactions with senior MONUSCO staff in Kinshasa, there may be interactions via video teleconference with different field offices and sector commanders. These meetings may cover how MONUSCO can implement its mandate more effectively and strengthen intra-mission coordination.
Efforts to eradicate Ebola in the DRC may be raised during the visiting mission. After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the DRC over on 24 July, a new outbreak occurred in North Kivu in August. On 27 September, the WHO reported that while “substantial progress has been made, the situation is precarious given recent increases in insecurity, incidents of community reluctance and geographical spread.” It has further reported that by 1 October, there had been 129 confirmed and 32 probable cases of Ebola in the DRC, resulting in 106 deaths. Members may be particularly interested in learning more about the role of MONUSCO (and other UN entities) in addressing the Ebola outbreak.
Please follow our coverage of the visiting mission in the coming days.