With just nine days to go for the Presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the situation is one of progress in the electoral process on one hand and escalating insecurity on the other the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country said on Monday.Briefing ambassadors at the UN Security Council, Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General noted steady progress in the electoral process despite significant logistical, financial, and security challenges.
However, the resurgence of the crises related to the M23 group in the east, and new pockets of insecurity in the Greater Katanga region, Mai-Ndombe and Tshopo provinces, heightened concerns, she said.
The restive North Kivu province also witnessed a further deterioration in the security situation, with rising regional tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, increasing the risk of direct military confrontation that could involve Burundi.
Ms. Keita, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO) highlighted that, according to the National Independent Electoral Commission, election preparations are advancing well, with MONUSCO providing logistical support.
She underscored that the validation of 26 presidential candidates, including two female candidates, is “a tangible sign of inclusiveness, which needs to be appreciated and commended”.
But she noted opposition and civil society concerns over the voters’ roll not being published at all polling stations by 5 December, as required by law.
She also noted violent clashes between rival political parties’ supporters in many provinces and intimidation against women candidates, while also expressing alarm over the proliferation of mis- and disinformation and hate speech, online and offline, amid the electoral campaign.
In addition to the political challenges, insecurity has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis, with over 6.3 million internally displaced people across DR Congo.
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 also noted at the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023 remains significantly underfunded, with only 37.5 per cent of the required $2.25 billion raised, and urged donors to provide necessary resources to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.
“With the accelerated withdrawal of the Mission, MONUSCO, together with the UN Country Team is exploring alternative options to ensure continued humanitarian assistance beyond the Mission’s presence,” she said.
Challenges not insurmountable
In conclusion, Ms. Keita noted that while the challenges in the DRC are numerous and complex, they are far from insurmountable.
“As the current debates around the general elections demonstrate, the Congolese people have a deep aspiration for transparent and inclusive governance, reforms, as well as the responsibility of their leaders,” she said, stressing that these aspirations deserved the full support of the international community.