Mr. President, when we consider the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC, we far too often have witnessed scenes of unspeakable violence and human cruelty. The UN and the wider international community have worked tirelessly for years to help bring peace to the DRC.
Under-Secretary-General Laquais, we commend MONUSCO’s efforts to protect civilians and support implementation of the December 31 Agreement. The MONUSCO peacekeeping mission has the very challenging task of helping keep people safe, and we remain committed to ensuring MONUSCO is able to effectively fulfill its mandate.
But an essential step to ensuring that history does not once again repeat itself in the DRC is to help the Congolese people complete a transition of power and make their voices heard through a credible, peaceful, and inclusive presidential election this year. Election delays cannot continue.
The international community must step up and apply more pressure – not only on President Kabila and his government, but also on the Independent National Electoral Commission, the CENI. The Commission, the CENI, must immediately publish an electoral calendar, and specifically the date for the presidential election.
The United States has already demonstrated that we will take action against those who delay and obstruct the implementation of the December 31 Agreement and preparations for credible, peaceful, and inclusive presidential elections. We are ready to take additional action to sanction those who stand in the way of the DRC’s first democratic transition of power.
The Security Council should also consider targeted sanctions to reduce the violence in the DRC and help pressure all stakeholders to play a more constructive role in moving the country forward. Those responsible for undermining the peace and security of the DRC and democratic institutions must be held accountable.
Thus far, stakeholders have felt few consequences for perpetuating instability. The alternative to supporting a democratic transition in the DRC is a return to violence, which is what we are seeing today in the Kasai regions. This return to horrific violence is an outcome that no one on this Council should want to see.
But in the past few months, approximately 1.3 million Congolese have been displaced, having fled violence in the Kasaïs, including nearly 30,000 who are now refugees in neighboring Angola.
Just five days ago this Council heard the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, relay the sickening reports coming out of the Kasai regions.
We were told that the conflict is “spreading and intensifying” and that hundreds, if not thousands, of children have been forcibly recruited to join the ranks of militant groups. We have seen videos of the DRC military summarily executing civilians, many of whom are children. We’ve heard reports of government personnel executing children as young as five years old as well as reports of widespread sexual violence committed by DRC forces.
There is no doubt about who is perpetrating violence in the Kasai regions, and what their motives are. At the same time, in eastern DRC there have been violent clashes and around the country we have seen a surge in prison breaks.
These events, while not necessarily linked, reflect a lack of state authority, or as some have suggested, more deliberate efforts by the DRC government to advance a strategy of chaos.
Mr. President, there is no time to delay. We urge the DRC government to ensure the rapid start and completion of voter registration in the Kasaïs. We also welcome MONUSCO’s efforts to help support voter registration in the Kasaïs in line with its mandate.
So for the United States, our bottom line is clear. The United States supports holding elections on time, per the terms of the December 31 Agreement last year.
There is a narrow window of opportunity for all of us to press the Government of the DRC to stay true to its commitments. All of us need to seize this chance now. We already know what mass violence and horror look like in the DRC. We cannot let history repeat itself.
Thank you, Mr. President.