MONUSCO’s mandate must be strengthened before the elections

Press release
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Ahead of the mandate renewal of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), FIDH organized an interface between a delegation of Congolese human rights defenders and Security Council Member-States in New York from March 16 to 20, 2015 to share concerns and bring the recommendations of Congolese civil society.

The delegation, composed of Dismas Kitenge, Vice-President of FIDH and President of the Lotus Group, Paul Nsapu Mukulu, Secretary General of FIDH and President of the League of Voters and Benjamin Kalombo, President of the Aprodec (Association for the Promotion of democracy and development in the DRC), brought a unique perspective on the challenges MONUSCO may face in the pre-election context of next year and in the wake of popular protests that broke out in mid-January 2015.

"In light of the challenges related to security, as well as to the process of democratization and establishment of the rule of law, the Security Council should rethink the strategy of the UN mission in the DRC ahead of crucial elections," said Paul Nsapu Mukulu, FIDH Secretary General and Coordinator of the League of Voters.

In preparation for the many polls to be organized in the DRC by November 2016, our organizations alerted UN Security Council member states on the risks associated with maintaining the bulk of the UN Mission forces in the Eastern part of the country, while serious human rights violations, usually committed by the Congolese security forces, army, police and intelligence services are already taking place and are likely to increase in the Central and Western parts. This was already the case on 19-20 January 2015, when peaceful protests against the draft electoral law were repressed violently causing at least 42 deaths among the protesters.

Our organizations therefore recommend that the military and civilian units of MONUSCO be redeployed throughout the country for better protection of civilians, including people who are particularly targeted by the Congolese authorities for their activism in defending fundamental freedoms, be it human rights defenders, independent journalists or political opponents and dissidents.

In this regard, FIDH and its member and partner organizations recommend that the mandate of MONUSCO be explicitly reinforced with regard to the protection of human rights defenders.

Our organizations also encourage the Security Council to recall, in its resolution renewing the mandate of the UN mission, the need to end the cycle of impunity for those responsible for serious human rights violations in the DRC.

They encourage, in addition, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in order to prevent further perpetration of crimes, to pass a clear message to the DRC authorities on the need to fight against impunity and to start legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the crimes committed, while cooperating better with the ICC.

According to Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice-President, "Given the poisonous atmosphere prevailing between the DRC government and the international community and the growing risk of repression which the Congolese civil society is facing, it is absolutely essential that the United Nations provide for a number of "benchmarks" on human rights and good governance within the MONUSCO exit strategy. After 15 years of UN presence in the Congo, the conditions are not yet ripe for a peaceful democratic transition. This won’t be possible unless consensual elections are held in the country and justice is delivered to victims of international crimes. "

The renewal of the MONUSCO’s mandate is indeed taking place in a very tense environment; the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the Mission, Martin Kobler, confessed the UN and the DRC were going through a "zone of turbulences" during his briefing to the Security Council and to confess his "concern" in his meeting with the FIDH delegation.

A position paper published by FIDH and its members highlights a number of other priorities that should be taken into account in the new mandate of MONUSCO. While the Security Council seems to want to pursue efforts in the fight against armed groups in the East of the country, despite their intention to reduce the number of troops integrated into the Mission, our organizations note that the preparation of free and fair elections, due to take place according to a credible calendar, requires the consolidation of the political terrain through the strengthening of technical assistance to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the updating, inspection and international access to the suspicious electoral register under its control.

"Our continuous and objective assessment of the electoral process in the DRC since 2007 allows us to say that the electoral register that will be used for the next elections includes 9 to 10 million fictitious voters. This massive fraud obviously opens the door to many traffic starting with forged IDs, since in the Congo a voter card entitles you to a passport. Given the regional and international security environment, it is a potential threat to peace and international security that the Security Council can not ignore," said Benjamin Kalombo, President of the Aprodec.

Many elections are to take place across the African continent in 2015 and 2016. In this respect and in view of the similarity of contexts and challenges, our organizations urge MONUSCO, like other UN missions involved in political processes on the continent, to interact more with civil society, including through a coalition of African NGOs set up by FIDH, around the #MonVoteDoitCompter (#MyVoteMustCount) Campaign, which now has one hundred members.

Finally, our organizations call on the Permanent Representative of Jordan, a member of the Security Council and Chair of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, to meet with representatives of the independent Congolese civil society during her visit to the country in May.

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