posted on Thu 10 Jan 2019 6:38 PM
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (11 January), the Security Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), will brief. Representatives from the AU, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), and the Catholic Bishops’ National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) are also expected to brief. It appears that Council members will make statements in the open chamber prior to moving to consultations.

Although this briefing will cover the quarterly report of the Secretary-General on the work of MONUSCO, the main focus will be on issues surrounding recent presidential, legislative and provincial elections.

After a two-year delay and multiple postponements, the elections finally occurred on 30 December 2018, although CENI announced on 25 December its decision to postpone voting in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi until March 2019, alluding to concerns about Ebola and the security situation.

Early today, CENI announced the provisional results of the elections and declared opposition figure Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election with 38.57 percent of the vote. The other opposition candidate Martin Fayulu obtained 34.83 percent of the vote, with government candidate Emmanuel Shadary getting 23.84 percent. There have been various responses to the results, ranging from highly skeptical to cautious. Fayulu, who appeared to be polling ahead of the other candidates prior to the election, called the results an “electoral coup”. CENCO, which had some 40,000 observers at polling stations across the DRC, said that the results did not correspond with the data its observation mission had collected. In a statement today, UN Secretary-General António Guterres took note of the announcement and called on “all stakeholders to refrain from violence and to channel any eventual electoral disputes through the established institutional mechanisms in line with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws.” The AU Commission similarly released a statement in which it stated that “any challenge to the results…be done peacefully, by using the procedures provided for by the texts in force and the political dialogue between all the parties stakeholders”.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be a continuation of the Council’s intensive engagement on the political process in the DRC in recent months. Most recently, Council members held consultations on Friday afternoon (4 January) at the request of France to discuss the political tensions, which have gripped the country in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of the elections. During the consultations, Zerrougui noted that MONUSCO was working to maintain open channels of communication among the parties to encourage them to maintain calm. She said that while there were many irregularities on election day, the elections went relatively well, a view shared by several Council members. This perspective largely echoed the words of the AU and the UN Secretary-General, who noted in the 4 January report on the DRC that “[e]lections took place in a generally peaceful atmosphere” and that “delays and technical problems that occurred at some polling stations were addressed by the [CENI]…as voting activities proceeded throughout the day.”

A major theme of the meeting was the next steps in the political process. France and other members felt that Council members should issue a press statement, calling for calm and restraint following the elections and noting that the results should reflect the will of the Congolese people. Others, including China, Russia and South Africa, preferred to wait until the results were released before Council members made a statement. As a result, no outcome was produced at the time.

Tomorrow’s meeting (11 January) was initially scheduled for Tuesday (8 January), but was rescheduled as some members, including the African members of the Council, maintained that the meeting should be held only after the results of the vote were announced. The results were originally scheduled to be released on Sunday (6 January), but the CENI announced that there would be a delay because additional time was needed for tallying; only 53 percent of votes had been counted by Sunday, according to the CENI.

Tomorrow’s meeting comes at a delicate time regarding the electoral process in the DRC, given that the announced provisional results are controversial. Council members have already expressed differing views on the elections. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, called for “clarity on these results”, saying that they were unexpected. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders likewise expressed “some doubts that we need to check”, adding that this issue would be discussed in the Council. Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, has tweeted that the DRC elections “are an important step in gradual normalisation of the situation in the country…No foreign interference and mentorship is crucial!”. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken note of the results, urging regional and international actors “to refrain from speculation and allow CENI to complete the process”.

Members are eager to hear from the various briefers, especially CENI and CENCO, given their divergent views on the vote count. There may be questions about how the percentage of votes was derived. There may also be interest in hearing about the possible institutional avenues available to the opposition to peacefully challenge the results. Some members may raise the fact that over 1.25 million voters were not able to participate in the vote in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi—many of whom might have supported Fayulu. This would seem a concern, given that CENI results indicated that Tshisekedi won over Fayulu only by some 684,000 votes. Postponing the votes in these regions until March will make little difference if a new president is inaugurated on 18 January, as currently planned. However, the opposition could lodge a complaint with the constitutional court before inauguration.

Members may also express concern about the potential for violence in the aftermath of the election, given that the validity of the results has been called into question by CENCO and some in the opposition. In this regard, given the concentration of MONUSCO troops in the east, there may be questions about how the mission would respond to violence in other parts of the country.

During consultations the issue of how the Council should respond to the announcement of the results may be discussed. It seems that a press statement is a possible outcome, although it may be difficult to get agreement on the substance of such a statement given the divergent views voiced by Council members following the announcement of the results.