Disease, strife afflict the DRC
These include infighting between rival militias, a military campaign against the Ugandan Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia, a continuing election crisis and a cholera epidemic that has killed over 1000 people - and it’s the civilians who are continuing to pay the highest price with thousands killed and over a million displaced.
The DRC’s military recently launched an operation against the ADF, which is suspected of killing 15 Tanzanian UN peacekeepers in December, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province.
On Sunday, four soldiers were killed in a suspected hit-and-run attack carried out by the Kamuina Nsapu militia on a military post in Kananga, the capital of the DRC’s troubled Kasai-Central province.
Furthermore, the Congolese authorities are also battling a cholera epidemic which according to the International Red Cross (IRC) has claimed the lives of more than 1000 people, infected over 53000, since its outbreak at the beginning of 2017.
But the plague of problems has been exacerbated by political unrest centred on repeatedly delayed elections following the refusal of incumbent President Joseph Kabila to step down despite his mandate ending in December 2016 as outlined in the December 31 accord.
This unrest has involved a crackdown on political activists and protesters with many protest rallies organised by the leaders of the Catholic Church which helped broker the December 2016 accord, outlining that Kabila would step down before the end of 2017 to enable fresh elections.
“The fight between the Congolese government and the political opposition over who is right and wrong continues to drive the DRC electoral crisis, now entering its third year,” said Stephanie Wolters, the head of Pretoria’s Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) Peace and Security Research Programme.
The winning narrative is an important aspect of the battle to win the support of international, regional and continental forces - and has contributed to drawing the crisis out, she explained in an ISS article.
Despite the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the AU and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) lauding the outcome of AU negotiations which lead to the December 2016 accord, its success was short-lived.
“Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s death early last year opened the door for political manipulation by the government,” said Wolters.
“It co-opted opportunistic opposition leaders and appointed them to positions which the accord had reserved for the opposition. Then government spent the latter half of 2017 on a continental and international charm offensive aimed at getting key players to buy this ruse.”
The end result is that many believe that the DRC’s continued stability is contingent on Kabila staying at the helm.
In November last year a timetable for presidential elections in December 2018 - two years after Kabila’s mandate ended and a year later than the date set by the December 2016 accord - was lauded by the AU and the SADC.
But Wolters said African players have ignored the bigger picture.
“There has been no progress on any of the key confidence-building measures in the December 2016 accord.
“Notable among these is the release of political prisoners and the review of trumped-up legal judgments against key opposition politicians such as Moïse Katumbi. Throughout 2017, opposition politicians were routinely harassed, activists were arrested, and others disappeared,” Wolters added.
“It is time for concrete and sustained action by African actors, notably the AU. After initially taking a strong lead with the mediation in 2016, the AU now seems to have been taking a back seat to SADC on the DRC - a recipe for inaction, as SADC has consistently sided with Kabila.”
The ISS research head further believes the AU should encourage Kabila to publicly declare that he is not standing for a third term and insist that the confidence-building measures in the accord be implemented immediately.
The opposition for its part should be more co-operative and finally, real electoral transparency in the DRC hinges on the reform of the electoral commission.
“The AU should push ahead with the creation of the supervisory body which it agreed to constitute along with the UN, SADC, the International Organisation of la Francophonie and the ICGLR,” Wolters concluded. - African News Agency/ANA