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Congo (Kinshasa): Elections and More

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 4, 2006 (060504)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The first round of presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo is now scheduled for July 30, after repeated delays. South Africa is taking responsibility for producing the ballot papers, while the European Union will send over 1,000 troops to aid United Nations forces in maintaining security during the elections. The elections, observers stress, are only one of the essential steps for consolidating peace in the country.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and summary from the latest report by the International Crisis Group (http://www.crisisgroup.org) on "Congo's Elections: Making or Breaking the Peace," and an earlier call by international and Congolese non-governmental organizations for the Congolese government to act on the recommendations of the Lutundula parliamentary report on corruption during the conflict from 1996 to 2003.

For additional background reports, including reports on the situation of displaced people and continuing conflict in eastern Congo and in Katanga, see the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (http://www.irinnews.org/frontpage.asp?SelectCountry=DRC), AllAfrica.com (http://allafrica.com), and the comprehensive website in English and French of MONUC, the UN Mission in the DR Congo (http://www.monuc.org). For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Congo (Kinshasa), visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Congo's Elections: Making or Breaking the Peace

International Crisis Group (Brussels)
http://www.crisisgroup.org

Press Release

April 27, 2006

The Congo's first free elections in 40 years should be a major step toward ending the country's long conflict, but if not carried out properly, they could trigger further unrest.

Congo's Elections: Making or Breaking the Peace, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, analyses the approaching multiparty presidential and legislative elections, the first since 1965, and warns that missteps could disrupt the fragile peace. There is potential for electoral fraud, parties are relatively weak, and the main opposition group plans to boycott. The considerable number of registered political parties - some 269 - will likely fragment the opposition even further.

The most immediate threat to stability comes from the east. Dissidents from the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which controlled one third of the country during the war and now stands to lose most of its influence, could try to fuel chaos in North Kivu in hopes of undermining the polls. Disenfranchised politicians elsewhere might also challenge the results violently if the polls are not fair and inclusive. The potential for fraud is high, as the security forces and media are deeply politicised and there is almost no regulation of campaign finance. The international community and the transitional government must act to make sure there is adequate monitoring of the whole electoral process. If elections are rigged, the Congolese will suffer the consequences for at least five years.

"The population has grown weary of a transitional government that is more concerned with personal enrichment than lifting them out of misery, and they are counting on the ballot box to improve their lot," says Crisis Group Senior Analyst Jason Stearns. "If the elections go awry, they will turn once again to violence"".

The election date, already postponed five times, is still uncertain. It is unlikely that elections can be held by the target of 30 June, and the main opposition party will use this delay to stage protests that could turn violent. The electoral commission should announce a new, realistic date, which should be not later than 12-13 August, with local elections to follow as quickly as possible. The transitional government should accept a proposed independent body of respected figures from the region to help resolve quarrels between candidates. Congolese officials and the UN mission should work together to contain the threat in the east by promoting an open dialogue about ethnic reconciliation while isolating and arresting the leaders of the dissidents. Except in areas where militia threaten the local population, the army should be garrisoned and paid properly through the election period.

"The Congo's stability is at stake", says Caty Clement, Crisis Group's Central Africa Project Director. "Elections are the first step, but real stability will come only if democratic institutions such as courts, media and parliament are given real clout and laws are enforced. Congolese will measure the peace dividend by these changes".


Congo's Elections: Making or Breaking the Peace

International Crisis Group
Africa Report N 108

Nairobi/Brussels, 27 April 2006

Executive Summary and Recommendations

As the Congo approaches its first free elections in 40 years, the stability of the country remains at risk, for three main reasons. First, one of the main former rebel groups, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), is unpopular and stands to lose most of its power at the polls: this has triggered a resurgence of violence in the east, which is likely to intensify before and after elections, as dissident RCD troops attack the newly integrated national army. Secondly, the vote has not been adequately prepared. With few safeguards in place against fraud, rigged polls could rapidly undermine stability after the elections and produce unrest in cities. Thirdly, the country's long-time political opposition, Etienne Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), will boycott the voting, unhappy with the other main parties' unwillingness to negotiate with it. This is likely to cause unrest in the two Kasai provinces and Kinshasa, where Tshisekedi enjoys substantial support.

The east is the most immediate flashpoint. Elections will radically change the political landscape. The RCD, whose military wing once controlled over a third of the country, will likely go from being a major national player to a small, regional party. This probability is tightly linked with fighting in the east, where dissatisfied RCD elements remain a security hazard, particularly in the Kivus. In North Kivu, former RCD units have refused army integration. Led by Laurent Nkunda, they have repeatedly attacked other, integrated units, most recently causing the displacement of 50,000 to 70,000 civilians around Rutshuru. The fighting has taken on an ethnic tinge, as the dissidents are all Congolese Hutu and Tutsi. This has exacerbated tensions within the province, where these communities have long-standing land conflicts with other ethnic groups. Unless prompt action is taken to address these underlying political grievances and to arrest the armed dissidents, further fighting is inevitable.

The potential for electoral fraud is considerable. The ministry of justice has failed to push through laws designed to guarantee judicial independence. The courts that will need to investigate and adjudicate election disputes remain politicised. A draft law to regulate campaign finance has also been shelved. At the same time, former belligerents retain parallel chains of command in the security forces charged with securing elections and have not been reluctant to influence and intimidate voters. In Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, these forces have been used to harass political parties and disperse demonstrations. The national police are poorly trained, and the new army is weak, deeply politicised and mostly still not integrated.

The elections are likely to be postponed a sixth time, due to logistical and legislative delays, in which case they would be held after the 30 June 2006 deadline established by the peace deal. The new constitution adopted by referendum in December 2005 and promulgated in February 2006 stipulates that transitional institutions remain in place until elections are held, suggesting that such a further delay is legally possible. However, the UDPS would likely use the missed date to mobilise demonstrations in an attempt to upset the process, and other groupings that anticipate poor electoral results, like the RCD, might well join.

The question is political, not legal. It is important to complete the electoral process without further delay, or at most the minimal delay necessitated by technical requirements. Lengthy postponement to extend the privileges of political elites would not be acceptable. A realistic date by which to hold presidential and national assembly elections if they must be postponed again would be 12-13 August. Efforts should be made to maintain a dialogue with the dissatisfied elements, not to permit them a veto over the electoral process but in order to preserve the inclusiveness of that process to the greatest degree possible and to keep the peace after the elections.

Elections are a step in the right direction, but if not carried out properly they could trigger further unrest. If the population and leaders conclude change cannot come peacefully through the ballot box, they may well resort to violence to contest the results. The transitional authorities and the international community have the responsibility to ensure that these elections - the first with multiparty choices since 1965 - are a genuine milestone marking the end to the Congo's long conflict.

Recommendations

To the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

  1. Hold the first round of the presidential and national assembly elections no later than 12-13 August 2006 and complete the electoral cycle by holding local elections as quickly thereafter as possible.
  2. Promptly provide a plan for the distribution of ballots and voting materials to avoid further delays in the electoral calendar and ensure free and fair elections.
  3. Accept an independent body to help resolve quarrels between candidates during the electoral period, such as the "committee of the wise" proposed by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), which would be composed of eminent officials from the region and act in close coordination with the electoral commission.
  4. Commit to an early census after the elections and to redistribution of parliamentary seats in accordance with its results.
  5. Deploy the presidential guard to cities only immediately before a presidential visit and withdraw it immediately thereafter so it cannot be used to influence the electoral process unduly, and withdraw it also from Kindu, Kisangani and Mbandaka, where it has committed numerous human rights violations.
  6. Keep the army in its garrisons during the election period, except for border areas and places where militia seriously threaten the local population.
  7. Give the High Authority of the Media sufficient resources to monitor and resolve disputes over media activity during the electoral process, including to open offices with sufficient and properly funded staff in all provinces.
  8. Give the courts sufficient resources to monitor and resolve election disputes, including for the Supreme Court to send more judges to its provincial branch offices.
  9. Discuss the report of the Lutundula commission on war-time contracts and publicise its findings widely.
  10. Encourage the political parties to publicise their finances widely, including in the media.
  11. Demonstrate commitment to implement the objective of the new constitution to achieve gender parity in national, provincial and local institutions by including all stakeholders, particularly women, in the electoral process, including by encouraging all parties to discuss gender issues in their platforms and otherwise acting to ensure significant representation of women in elected bodies.
  12. Deal with the dissidents in North and South Kivu by both peaceful and military means:
    1. establish a land tenure commission and strengthen the land registry to prevent future disputes;
    2. discuss ethnic reconciliation openly in the east during the electoral campaign; and
    3. ensure that all army brigades are adequately fed and paid so they no longer present a security hazard and use the integrated brigades to arrest notorious trouble makers, such as Laurent Nkunda, in coordination with MONUC.

To political parties participating in the elections:

  1. Agree to make every effort to nominate women for at least 20 per cent of the appointive positions in government, judicial and public administration bodies, including ministries, after the elections.

To the Members of the International Committee for Support of the Transition (CIAT):

  1. Support creation of a body of eminent, independent personalities from the Central Africa region that can help resolve quarrels between parties during the electoral period, along the lines of the "committee of the wise" proposed by MONUC.
  2. Visit Goma, Bukavu and Uvira to speak with local authorities about the growing unrest in the Kivus and support a genuine mechanism for local reconciliation.
  3. Strengthen the judicial system by financing deployment of more judges to the Supreme Court's provincial branch offices and provide them with adequate resources to process electoral disputes.

To the Independent Electoral Commission and Observers from Congolese Civil Society Groups and Foreign Missions:

  1. Coordinate efforts so that observers are present at the largest possible number of polling stations.

To the United Nations Security Council, the Secretary-General and MONUC:

  1. Devise a coherent strategy for dealing with the insurgents in North Kivu that:

    1. addresses the grievances of the local communities, in particular land tenure problems, and helps the local and national government set up a commission to explore more effective dispute settlement mechanisms;
    2. reinforces the legal system so it can impartially investigate human rights abuses and demarcates land holdings in the province; and
    3. prepares with the Congolese army an operation to arrest Laurent Nkunda, using integrated brigades and closely monitored to prevent abuse of civilians.

To Donors:

  1. Consider creating a fund to support the campaigns of women candidates, including through training and financial assistance.


DR Congo: End Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources

Government must act on Parliamentary Commission's Recommendations

Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org

(London, February 21, 2006) - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo must act promptly on the recommendations of a Congolese parliamentary investigation that uncovered illegal natural resource exploitation and profiteering from armed conflict, said a leading group of international human rights, environmental and aid organizations today.

In June 2005 the Lutundula Commission, a special National Assembly commission led by parliamentarian Christophe Lutundula, submitted a report on its investigations into mining and other business contracts that rebels and government authorities signed between 1996 and 2003, when Congo was wracked by war. The report found that dozens of contracts are either illegal or of limited value for the development of the country and it recommends their termination or renegotiation. It further recommends judicial action against a number of senior political and corporate actors involved in these operations.

[Note: The text of the Lutundula Commission, in French, is available at http://www.freewebs.com/congo-kinshasa/]

After eight months of delay, the office of the National Assembly headed by Olivier Kamitatu decided last week to distribute the report to all parliamentarians, though no decision was made on when it would be officially examined by the chamber. Local sources reported the delay was due to pressure by senior politicians named in the report and leading figures of some of the main political parties who wished to bury it before elections scheduled for May. Discussion of the commission's report by the National Assembly has already been postponed twice and due to a heavy parliamentary agenda, risks being further delayed.

"For years, Congo's politicians have struck deals that enrich themselves but provide no benefit to the Congolese public. Profits from such deals have often come at the cost of enormous suffering and loss of human lives," said the coalition of non-governmental organizations. "Parliament must scrutinize the Lutundula Commission's findings and hold political actors accountable before the elections."

Since the start of the transitional government in June 2003, armed groups linked to neighboring countries and corrupt Congolese government officials have continued illicit economic exploitation in the country. Last month, a United Nations arms monitoring group reported to the Security Council that the competition for control of natural resources continues to fuel the violent conflict in eastern and southern Congo.

The Lutundula Commission report draws attention to the ongoing illegal exploitation and recommends an immediate moratorium on the signing of new contracts until after the elections. To ensure continued parliamentary scrutiny, it also calls for an expansion of its mandate to investigate contracts signed during the transitional period from June 2003 to present. These recommendations, made eight months ago, were ignored. Meanwhile, political and corporate actors have concluded new mining deals with minimal oversight.

While carrying out the investigation, some members of the commission were threatened and they found politicians, officials, and company executives unwilling to answer questions. Despite support from the World Bank for the commission?s work, a number of countries and international organizations also refused to assist the commission. Officials from the United Nations and the Belgian Senate, both of which had investigated natural resource extraction in the Congo between 2000 and 2003, withheld important information regarding some of the illegal deals, citing concerns over confidentiality.

In its report, the commission corroborates the central findings of the U.N. Panel of Experts and other investigations, which concluded that belligerents were motivated in part by their desire to exploit Congo?s mineral and economic wealth. Belligerents used some of their profits to finance further military operations that often involved widespread human rights abuses against civilians and violations of international humanitarian law. The war is estimated to have caused the deaths of four million people in Congo, the highest death toll in terms of civilian lives since World War II.

Set up by the peace accords of 2003, the Lutundula Commission includes representatives of all the major parties to the conflict. The commission assessed the legality of deals entered into by the former belligerents and their possible benefits for the nation. In its first report, the commission recommends that sixteen contracts be ended or renegotiated and that twenty-eight Congolese and international companies be investigated for violations of Congolese law. The commission also recommends that seventeen persons be prosecuted for fraud, theft and other charges. A second report detailing the financial costs of the war is soon to be submitted by the commission.

"When the peace accords were signed, all parties agreed to investigate these deals. Now that the commission has found proof of corruption and abuses, Congolese leaders must squarely address the problem," said the coalition of international NGOs. "Parliament must promptly put the commission's report on its agenda and take action on its recommendations before the end of the transition period."

The group of international and Congolese human rights, environmental and aid organizations includes:

Association Africaine de Droit de l'Homme (ASADHO-Katanga)
Broederlijk Delen
Centre National D'Appui Au Developpement et a la Participation Populaire (CENADEP)
Fatal Transactions
Friends of the Earth-USA
Global Witness
Groupe d'Appui Aux Exploitants des Ressources Naturelles (GAERN)
Human Rights Watch
International Crisis Group (ICG)
Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NiZA)
Nouvelle Dynamique Syndicale (NDS)
Organisation Concert?e des Ecologistes et Amis de la Nature (OCEAN)
Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID)
The Rainforest Foundation UK


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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