Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chairman, Special Representative Zerrougui, thank you for your briefings. We appreciate your efforts to keep the Security Council continually informed of progress toward elections in the DRC.
We would especially like to thank Ms. Masika Bihamba for your presence in the Council chambers today. We are all moved by your testimony regarding the threats against women in the DRC and inspired by your courage in seeking protection, care, and justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Thank you for your leadership.
Yesterday was an important day, with the opening of the candidate registration period in the DRC. As we have repeatedly stated, we expect President Kabila to abide by the DRC constitution and the December 2016 Agreement. He is not eligible under Congolese law to seek a third term. The United States regrets that President Kabila did not use his July 19 address to Parliament to resolve the uncertainty regarding his intentions.
Turning to elections preparations, December 23 is rapidly approaching. This Council authorized MONUSCO to provide logistical support to the elections, and we expect the DRC government to take advantage of the support that MONUSCO has offered. It is absolutely critical that the Independent National Electoral Commission make detailed requests for logistical support from MONUSCO in a timely fashion. We have not yet seen evidence of how the Electoral Commission would organize elections without MONUSCO’s assistance, and MONUSCO cannot afford to wait until the last moment to put a plan into action.
Additionally, the Commission must take steps to ensure voters can cast their votes via a mechanism that is tested, trusted, and guarantees secrecy of the vote – namely paper ballots. Deploying more than 100,000 unfamiliar, untested, and possibly unworkable electronic voting machines for the first time during a critical national election poses an enormous and unnecessary risk. What do Congolese authorities plan to do if these untested voting machines malfunction on Election Day and jeopardize the credibility of the results? Is there a backup plan? And if so, what is it?
We must also not lose sight of the violence we have witnessed recently in eastern DRC. The United States commends MONUSCO’s quick response to clashes in Bijombo this month, but remains deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses, with tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence. Ultimately, violence in eastern DRC and in other parts of the country will not abate without genuine, credible, inclusive, and peaceful elections, and without a commitment to hold those responsible for such violence to account. We have not forgotten the murders of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, and we will not stop pressing for those responsible to be held accountable.
The international community is united in these concerns, as evidenced by last week’s joint communique with the AU Peace and Security Council. We urge other members of the Security Council to push for well-planned elections, including through members’ bilateral conversations, and to consider the possibility of targeted sanctions against those who threaten the DRC’s peace and security.
The Congolese people have been waiting nearly two years for an opportunity to cast their votes and choose new leaders, as outlined in their Constitution. President Kabila has committed repeatedly to respect the Constitution and implement the December 2016 agreement. We are a mere five months away from Election Day. The time for posturing is over.