The Democratic Republic of Congo is facing upcoming elections amidst a growing state of insecurity.
During a meeting with UN Security Council ambassadors, Bintou Keita, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, reported that there has been consistent advancement in the election procedure, despite encountering major logistical, financial, and security difficulties.
She stated that the recent reemergence of conflicts involving the M23 organization in the eastern region, as well as the appearance of additional areas of instability in the Greater Katanga region, Mai-Ndombe and Tshopo provinces, have caused increased worries.
The unstable North Kivu province saw a worsening of security, as tensions between the DRC and Rwanda escalated, posing a potential for armed conflict that may also involve Burundi.
Ms. Keita, who is in charge of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO), emphasized that the National Independent Electoral Commission has reported positive progress in election preparations, with MONUSCO offering assistance in logistics.
She emphasized the significance of 26 presidential candidates being validated, including two female candidates, as a clear indication of inclusivity that should be recognized and praised.
However, she acknowledged that there were objections and worries among opposition groups and civil society regarding the failure to make the voters’ roll available at all polling stations by the designated date of 5 December, as mandated by legislation.
The individual also observed aggressive confrontations among supporters of opposing political parties in multiple regions and instances of harassment towards female candidates. They also expressed concern about the widespread spread of false information and hate speech, both on the internet and in person, during the election period.
Moreover, the issue of political hurdles is compounded by a lack of safety, leading to a dire humanitarian situation where more than 6.3 million individuals within the Democratic Republic of Congo have been forced to flee their homes.
Renewed hostilities between the M23 fighters and the Congolese Armed Forces forced over 500,000 people fleeing their homes since October. Cholera and measles outbreaks, along with alarming levels of gender-based violence, further compound the dire humanitarian situation.
Ms. Keita pointed out that the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023 is still lacking in funding, with only 37.5% of the necessary $2.25 billion raised. She called on donors to provide essential resources to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who require it.
She stated that the Mission, MONUSCO, is working with the UN Country Team to find different solutions for providing ongoing humanitarian aid even after the Mission’s departure.
Challenges not insurmountable
Ms. Keita concluded that although the difficulties in the DRC are great and intricate, they are not impossible to overcome.
According to her, the ongoing discussions surrounding the national elections reveal that the people of Congo have a strong desire for open and fair government, changes, and accountability from their leaders. She emphasized that these desires should be fully backed by the global community.