Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Zerrougui, as well as Ms. Mbela, for your briefings and your insight.
I want to direct my comments today to my colleagues, but, above all, to the people of the Congo as they approach elections with great consequences for their future. At an Arria session on the Congo last February, the Congolese Foreign Minister made the comment that you have to visit the Congo to really understand the situation there.
I have visited the Congo. I have met with its leaders and listened to its people. I spoke to mothers, fathers, and children in and out of camps. Their message was heartfelt – and unmistakable. They want a better life. And they want a voice in their own futures.
The people of Congo want what every human being wants – to be safe and free to raise their children and live their best lives.
There are voices today telling the Congolese that democracy isn’t the way to achieve their hopes for themselves and their families. They want you to believe that representative government is too risky and too inefficient. They are asking you to continue to put your trust in government that is not accountable to you. These voices are wrong.
Democracy can be messy. It can be unpredictable. Democracy is a process. It is not dependent on a single event or decision. It is the result of years, decades – sometimes centuries – of actions and decisions. Democracy is the hard work of allowing the people to fairly and safely express their will – and giving them the confidence that their decisions will be honored.
My country, the United States, has over 200 years of experience with democracy. It took us much of this time to fully include all Americans in the vote. And our democracy is still far from perfect.
Democracy takes time and effort, but history shows us that it’s worth it. Democracies are more prosperous. They are more peaceful, less corrupt, and more innovative. And most importantly, democracy honors the desire in every one of us to build lives of dignity and self-determination. Not just for ourselves – not even mostly for ourselves – but for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren yet to come. That is why so many people have fought so hard and sacrificed so much over the years for the right to hold their governments accountable.
The democratic process is underway in the Congo. It began with the St. Sylvestre Accords, built on the foundation of the DRC constitution. It gathered strength with the electoral calendar that set out a clear process for elections on December 23, 2018. It gained momentum with President Kabila’s agreement that he wouldn’t run in these elections.
Now, democracy in the Congo is poised for its greatest test. It’s a historic opportunity.
For any country struggling to govern itself, the peaceful transfer of power is a decisive moment. It is the moment when all the theory of representative government fades into the background, and decisions of real people in real situations come into the forefront. Peacefully surrendering power tests the ability and willingness of individual men and women to put aside their personal interests and agendas and put the people first. The hopes and aspirations of more than 80 million Congolese people now depend on the leaders of the Congo passing this test.
The Government of the Congo has been very clear that they are holding elections on December 23 and that they are doing so without the help of the international community. We respect their sovereign right to make this decision. It is a decision with tremendous consequences for the Congolese people.
We have spent two years in the Security Council reiterating the necessity for free, fair, and credible elections on December 23. All the parties know what they need to do. President Kabila understands his role. The DRC government understands what must be done. The National Independent Electoral Commission knows the preparations it must take in the next six weeks.
There is no excuse for failure. No reason for delay. All that is left is for the leadership of the DRC to show the will to follow the democratic path that has been laid out before it. The whole world is watching to see what the legacy of President Kabila will be.
To the Congolese people, as you prepare to take this momentous leap into your future, my message to you is this: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is your birthright and that of every human being. Claim it. Demand it. Seize it for yourselves and your grandchildren yet to come. Know that there are people throughout the world rooting for your success. And know that the prayers and the best wishes of the American people are with you.