Brussels, 6 December 2017 – As EU Member States are due to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today at the Africa Working Party (COAFR), the European Network for Central Africa (EurAc) and Protection International wish to express their deep concern with a political, human rights and security crisis in this country that shows no signs of abating. With a new plan to organize elections in December 2018, we urge the EU and its member states to maintain an active focus on the DRC, by exerting pressure on those individuals and entities blocking the democratic process, and assisting others to organise credible elections in 2018.
On 5 November 2017, the National Electoral Commission (CENI) of the DRC set a long-awaited date for the elections. The new calendar schedules presidential, parliamentary, and provincial elections on 23 December 2018, two years after the end of the second and final presidential mandate of Joseph Kabila. However, large parts of the opposition and civil society do not accept the new calendar, and express serious doubt about the government’s political will to organize credible elections in 2018. Indeed, President Joseph Kabila has not indicate that he is ready to step down either democratically or peacefully. As the extreme unpopularity of Joseph Kabila continues to increase, so does the risk of unrest in the country.
In the new calendar, CENI gave donors the deadline of 30 November 2017 to present their plans to fund the elections, estimated at a total of 1.3 billion dollars. Although the deadline has passed, this request is above all unrealistic.
“Rejection by the international community to finance elections will be used by Congolese authorities to postpone elections, but funding should only be committed upon agreement on concrete and strong conditions. Otherwise, the new calendar will prove to be little more than another tactic to keep in power a leader who does not respect the constitution, restricts civic space, and mismanages public funds”, said Brune Mercier, EurAc Director.
As pressure on international donors to fund elections will mount, we call on the EU and its member states to strictly condition any election funding upon demonstrable political will by Congolese authorities to organize elections in 2018. This comprises a credible, consensual reassessment of financial and logistical needs and benchmarks by the CENI under the auspices of the international coordinated team of experts the EU is part of, as well as on the restoration of civic and democratic space.
“The recent arrest of civil society actors, the ban on public demonstrations, and the draconian NGO and Human Rights Defender Bills pending before parliament which include provisions that go against international human rights law, should be condemned in the strongest terms”, said Liliana De Marco, Executive Director at Protection International.
In line with recently adopted Council Conclusions on the protection of civic space in third countries, we call on the European Union and its member states, including through their missions in Kinshasa, to publicly denounce the pending Bills, urge Congolese authorities to fully respect legislative due process, and bring the Bills in alignment with international and regional standards for the protection and promotion of human rights. In addition, we exhort the EU to continue to demand that the Congolese government fully respect the requirements set out in the Cotonou Agreement as well as in the New Year’s Eve Agreement, proceed with the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience as well as dropping all charges still held against them and ensure justice for the victims and their families of the violent repression of the demonstrations of September and December 2016.
For more information, please contact:
Julie Capoulade – Communications & Advocacy Officer – EurAc
+32 499 81 01 77 // julie.capoulade [at] eurac-network.org // @JulieCapoulade
Nellie EPINAT -Communications & Outreach officer
+32 498 44 13 66 // nepinat [at] protectioninternational.org ( )@ProtectionInt
Note to editors:
Created in 2003, the European Network for Central Africa (EurAc) gathers 39 member organizations from civil society based in 11 European countries. These organizations work on and in the Great Lakes region. They support civil society organizations in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda in their efforts to promote peace, the defense of human rights and development.
EurAc concentrates its activities on advocacy towards European institutions and policy- and decision-makers, around 3 central themes for the Great Lakes region: (1) peace and security, (2) democracy and human rights, and (3) management of natural resources. Transversely from these fields, the improvement of governance and the strengthening of non-state players as a counterpower are priorities of our advocacy work.
Protection International is a non-profit organization providing protection strategies and tools for security management to human rights defenders. Since 2004, Protection International has been working with local partners in over fifty countries across the globe.