Elections on 23 December in DRC: a historic opportunity [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 13 November 2018
I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Ms. Leila Zerrougui, for her very informative briefing. On behalf of France, allow me to reiterate our full support for her commitment at all levels, as well as that of MONUSCO. I also thank Ms. Joséphine Mbela for her insightful testimony on the expectations of the Congolese people with regard to the elections, especially the key role that women must be able to play. She can rest assured that her important messages have been and will continue to be heard.
As I had the opportunity to say during the Council’s visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we are at a crucial moment in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are all convinced that there is now a historic opportunity, with the elections on 23 December, for the first democratic and peaceful transfer of power in the country. Successful elections — which is to say free, credible, open and transparent ones, in the context of a peaceful environment and the results of which are recognized by all — would undoubtedly give way to a new chapter in the country’s history. It would pave the way for stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and would contribute significantly to creating the conditions for its development.
Progress has been made to that end. Electoral materials are beginning to be distributed throughout the country, provisional voter rolls have been published for everyone to review and the Government has once again begun to contribute to the Independent National Electoral Commission to enable it to operate fully. France welcomes the progress.
However, that technical progress will be meaningful only if all candidates can compete freely in the elections and if the Congolese people have confidence that their vote will be fully recorded. Trust is therefore the key to success. Efforts have been made to reconcile views on the use of machines for printing ballots and on the electoral register, and technical questions have been raised. It is essential that dialogue among all parties continue to be pursued to respond to them and so that agreement is reached quickly on the conditions for preparing for the elections. All Congolese political actors involved in the elections, whether in organizing or competing in them, must rise to the challenge and heed the people’s call for overcoming their differences and finding the broadest possible consensus.
As the Council has frequently call for, fully and in good faith implementing the so-called relaxation measures called for in the Saint-Sylvestre agreement remains necessary. Through its Commissioner for Peace and Security, the African Union has called on all parties “to ensure calm and arrive at agreement to find viable solutions to candidate and ballot security, reach consensual solutions to issues related to the electoral register and to making the political space more inclusive, and ensure equitable access to public media for all actors”.
The Saint-Sylvestre agreement provides for the lifting of the general ban on demonstrations. Although some political meetings have been held in Kinshasa without incident, which France welcomes, the lifting is still awaited. Out in the provinces, we continue to see frequent instances of political rallies being prohibited, often on very short notice, with demonstrators being manhandled and arrested. It is essential that the lifting of the ban on demonstrations be implemented throughout the entirety of the territory.
The official campaign begins in 10 days’ time. During the Security Council’s visit to the Democratic Republican Congo, the Government undertook to ensure that all political activities would be free and unhindered during the time of the visit. For their part, the opposition leaders whom we met committed themselves to carrying out those activities in a peaceful manner. We call on all parties, both Government and opposition candidates, to honour their commitments for the good of the Congolese people.
Finally, we respect the choice of the Congolese authorities to organize elections without external assistance. We will remain ready to support the holding of the elections, in particular through MONUSCO, should the Congolese Government so request. Similarly, the African Union has also reiterated its readiness to pool its resources and coordinate its efforts with those of MONUSCO in order to provide additional support for organizing elections. I would also like to briefly address three points that, although not related to the elections, remain especially important.
First, regarding the situation in the east of the country, armed group activities, in particular by the Allied Democratic Forces, continue to jeopardize civilians, particularly around the town of Beni. We are aware of the situation in that particular part of the country. France encourages MONUSCO, specifically its Intervention Brigade, to ambitiously neutralize those groups and restore to the civilian populations of Beni the peace to which they aspire.
Secondly, the Ebola epidemic is raging in that same region of the country, while the security situation has significantly complicated the response. France commends the courageous commitment of Congolese health services and international partners, including MONUSCO, in combating the epidemic. We encourage the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s partners to respond to the call and fund the regional response plan. Otherwise, the risk of regional spillover is high. Along those lines, I would refer to the Council’s call in resolution 2439 (2018) for ensuring access and safety for humanitarian and medical personnel.
Finally, turning to the humanitarian situation in the Kasais, the return of thousands of Congolese people from Angola has significantly complicated the response to the crisis, in an area already ravaged by recent tensions. France commends the solidarity shown by the people of the region who provided assistance to the returnees, even though most of them are themselves living in difficult conditions. Also on this point, the country’s partners must rise to the challenge and provide the necessary assistance to help the people concerned. On all of those points, you, Mr. President, may be assured of France’s steadfast commitment.