The United Nations (UN) has warned that an electoral crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may trigger widespread violence if a solution that will satisfy all parties is not found come December 20.
DRC President Joseph Kabila, who the radical opposition accuses of seeking an unconstitutional third term in office, shows no sign of packing his bags on December 19.
Maman Sambo Sidikou, who heads MONUSCO (the UN mission in the DRC), told the Security Council that if the situation continues, large-scale violence would be inevitable.
“Actors on all sides appear more and more willing to resort to violence to achieve their ends,” Sidikou, who also heads the UN’s 22 000 strong peacekeeping force, said.
“While MONUSCO will do everything it can within its mandate to protect civilians, the scope of the threats dramatically outstrip the mission’s capabilities,” he warned.
“The coming period will certainly be extremely difficult, the tipping point in the serious violence could be reached very quickly.”
With more opposition protests scheduled on October 19, Sidikou said the UN and regional organisations like the African Union must encourage dialogue to prevent a spiral of violence.
Elections were to be held in November before Kabila’s term expires, but the country’s electoral commission said logistical and budgetary obstacles required the election to be pushed back to at least December 2018.
At least 53 people were killed last month in violent protests against Kabila last month, according to the UN. But the radical opposition parties put the death toll at more than 100.
The Constitutional Court ruled that Kabila can remain in power until the next election. But the ‘Rassemblement’ – the radical opposition led by veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi – has rejected the ruling, accusing Kabila of controlling the electoral commission and courts in a bid to remain in power.
Congolese families who have the financial means have reportedly begun to take their relatives out of the country.
On Monday, the government arrested Bruno Tshibala, the deputy secretary-general for the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), at the Kinshasa airport as he was boarding a flight to Brussels.
The government accused Tshibala and other leading members of the ‘Rassemblement’ of being behind last month’s deadly protests.
The UDPS has vowed to hit the streets if Tshibala is not released.
(additional reporting and final editing by Issa Sikiti da Silva)
Photo: The offices of the ruling PPRD in Kinshasa burned down by angry protestors, in September 2016. Credit: DW/DPA