Physical Security: Congo Security Situation
This report was created by our analyst team using Silobreaker Online’s collection and analysis tools.
Security Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The current president of the DRC is Joseph Kabila, son of the late president Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated by a bodyguard in 2001. Kabila has been in power since his father’s death. His second presidential term expired in 2016, yet he has continued to delay elections. He is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
- Kabila and his relatives have financial interests in a large number of businesses within the DRC. It is speculated that Kabila’s reluctance to hand over power is due to the fact that the family collectively has much to lose financially from a power transition.
- The president has sidelined political opposition over time, through bribery and repression. Opposition leaders, journalists, and political activists are regularly harassed by security forces loyal to the president, and jailed.
- Moïse Katumbi, a former ally of Kabila and previously governor of DRC’s Katanga province, was exiled abroad after attempting to run in the presidential election as Kabila’s opposition. After he fled the country in 2016, he was sentenced in absentia on fabricated charges of real estate fraud.
- Elections are now scheduled for December 23, 2018, but the delay has caused widespread outrage and protests amongst ordinary Congolese, with whom Kabila is extremely unpopular.
- On February 1st, 2018, a spokesperson for President Kabila said the latter would respect the constitution and step down in December, as well as announce in July his preferred candidate for his succession.
- Considering the circumstances mentioned above, the likelihood of free and fair elections being held is remote. This is compounded by the present administration’s insistence on using an electronic voting system for the first time. Member-countries on the UN Security Council have raised concerns and advised against electronic voting in such a crucial election, as it is risky and could undermine credibility.
New Interior Minister
- In February 2018, in response to the general unrest across the country, President Kabila appointed Henri Mova Sakanyi, an administration loyalist, as interior minister. Sakanyi will oversee efforts to stabilize the security situation, which is wracked by increasing militia violence and unrest over the delayed elections.
Tanganyika Province Humanitarian Situation
- Recent reports by aid organizations warn that a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in the country’s southeast, where entrenched interethnic tensions have erupted in violence, human rights abuses and mass displacement in Tanganyika province. At least 630,000 people are currently displaced within the province. The UN Refugee Agency referred to the developing conflict between ethnic groups such as the Twa and Luba as ‘of extraordinary proportions’. The UNHCR recorded numerous incidents in the first half of February, including 4,700 involving physical abuse, torture, killings, rape and forced labour.
- The province has also witnessed violent confrontation between the Congolese armed forces and militias since late January.
- According to Médecins Sans Frontières, the country is facing the worst cholera outbreak recorded in the last 20 years. In 2017 alone, 55,000 people contracted cholera in the DRC, and at least 1,190 died. The epidemic has reached the capital, Kinshasa, where it is spreading due to the lack of safe drinking water, sanitation and adequate health services.
- In central Kasai region, government security forces are battling an armed group who oppose Kabila’s rule. Violence erupted in August 2016 when government troops killed Kamwina Nsapu, a militia leader. At least 5,000 have been killed and almost a million and half fled to neighbouring regions or Angola. Evidence of mass killings and graves dug by the Congolese Army has been reported by human rights groups.
Aid Workers Killed, Abducted
- In North Kivu province, two Congolese aid workers employed by the NGO Hydraulique Sans Frontières, were killed and another kidnapped by an unknown armed group. The kidnapped aid worker was released on February 19.
- In a statement, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the security situation in the province, which borders both Rwanda and Uganda, is an obstacle to delivering humanitarian aid.
Ituri Province Ethnic Clashes
- In early February, ethnic conflict led to deaths of dozens in Ituri province in eastern DRC. Clashes between the Hema ethnic group and the rival Lendu group resulted in deaths and also in the displacement of hundreds of families. Historical tensions between the two ethnic groups have escalated recently over land and grazing rights.
Silobreaker Time series tool showing current political instability in the DRC
General Forecast for 2018
- The prognosis for the DRC in 2018 is likely further instability and conflict in the run-up to the scheduled election.
- If elections go as planned, and are held freely and fairly, Kabila would plausibly be replaced by one of the opposition figures, as he is generally unpopular. A more realistic scenario is that Kabila’s government will either maintain its current hold on power, whether through Kabila or a loyalist candidate.
- There is also the possibility that before or after the scheduled elections, Congolese civil society may attempt, successfully or not, to overthrow the current regime. This would almost certainly be met with violent repression, as the security forces have frequently employed lethal force against even non-violent protesters.
- Kabila’s unpopularity, combined with the rapidly deteriorating socio-economic conditions, could eventually result in a military coup. This could lead to political reform, or to a new, equally authoritarian, military regime.
- Should the instability within the DRC spill over and threaten neighbouring countries’ interests, external intervention could occur. At the moment, large numbers of displaced Congolese have sought refuge in Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Angola. During the First and Second Congo Wars in the late 1990s, Angola, Uganda and Rwanda invaded and attempted to buttress or overthrow regimes within the DRC.
- While divided and lacking in any cohesion or unifying vision, many militia groups currently exist throughout DRC. Armed groups could potentially orchestrate a violent uprising if conditions deteriorated sufficiently.
- The above projections are relatively unlikely for the time being, but the current instability and uncertainty throughout the DRC means any, or a combination of the above, could occur. In any case, the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation in the short term is likely to deteriorate further rather than improve.
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