Populations at Risk
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Post-election instability leaves populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at imminent risk of political violence and mass atrocity crimes committed by security forces and various militias.
After two years of unconstitutional delays and the widespread repression of opposition protests, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held elections on 30 December. The national election commission (CENI) announced on 10 January that preliminary results indicated that opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi had won the election, defeating another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, and ruling coalition candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.
During the election there were widespread allegations of irregularities, including vote tampering and voter suppression. In eastern DRC there were reports of armed groups attacking polling stations and coercing civilians to vote for particular candidates. An estimated 3 million people were also unable to vote after the CENI announced that the election would be delayed until March 2019 in Beni and Butembo, North Kivu province, due to an Ebola outbreak, and in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe province, due to ethnic violence and threats of terrorist attacks.
The elections took place amidst increasing violence and instability as various armed groups have exploited the weakness of state authority in various parts of the country. Despite military offensives conducted by the government's armed forces (FARDC) with assistance from the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and its Force Intervention Brigade, attacks by armed groups and inter-communal violence continue. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 4.5 million Congolese are currently internally displaced while more than 780,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries.
Deadly inter-communal clashes erupted in Yumbi during December 2018, forcing more than 16,000 people to flee to Congo-Brazzaville. According to UNHCR, more than 450 homes were destroyed in clashes between the Banunus and Batende communities.
Several provinces in eastern DRC - notably North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika - have been plagued by a rise in inter-communal violence and attacks by armed groups. Suspected attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and other militias near Beni, North Kivu, have hampered efforts to confront an Ebola outbreak. During 2018 attacks by the ADF and other militias killed at least 235 civilians around Beni, while more than 165 people were abducted by armed groups. Clashes over access to land and water between the Banyamulenge and Bafuliro ethnic groups and affiliated militias near Uvira, South Kivu, also displaced more than 76,000 people during 2018.
Government repression of the opposition over the past two years has exacerbated political tensions throughout the DRC. Widespread allegations of falsified election results could result in widespread protests and further violent repression by the security forces, further destabilizing the country.
Widespread violence in the east is indicative of the enduring challenge of building effective governance and political stability in the DRC. Competition for control of profitable minerals, as well as unresolved inter-communal conflicts, have enabled the proliferation of militias and armed groups.
The government of the DRC has struggled to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and government forces have at times been complicit in the perpetration of mass atrocity crimes.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) currently subjects 13 entities and 31 individuals in the DRC to sanctions. Several governments and regional organizations, including the United States and EU, have also imposed sanctions on government officials who have impeded the election process or are deemed responsible for deadly attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
On 31 March the UNSC extended MONUSCO's mandate until March 2019. On 30 October the UNSC adopted Resolution 2439 condemning attacks by armed groups that have hampered the response to the Ebola outbreak. Both resolutions emphasized that the government "bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory and subject to its jurisdictions including protection from crimes against humanity and war crimes."
On 11 January the Southern African Development Community (SADC) released a statement welcoming the release of provisional results, and urging all parties and their supporters to refrain from acts of violence. SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region have both encouraged the government of DRC to recount the votes.
The government must take urgent steps to ensure a timely and peaceful transition of power. Any candidates contesting the provisional results should do so through appropriate legal channels and refrain from inciting violence.
The security forces must refrain from using disproportionate force against civilians and respect the universal human rights of all Congolese, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The new government should undertake measures to hold all those who used lethal force against unarmed protesters prior to the 2018 election accountable.
The DRC government and MONUSCO must ensure that protecting civilians remains their primary priority as they address the ongoing threat posed by various armed groups. The government and MONUSCO should implement measures to mediate inter-communal tensions in eastern DRC, the Kasaï region and Mai-Ndombe province.
Last Updated: 15 January 2019
The five most recent issues of R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert are available in the side-bar. To see previous assessments of this country, please see R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert on our Publications page. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been featured in the R2P Monitor since the January 2012 issue.