Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the DRC
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Democratic Republic of Congo, 11 October 2018, New York.
Let me begin by thanking SRSG Zerrougui and Special Envoy Djinnit for their briefings. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the co-leads, MONUSCO and the UNCT for organizing our visit to the DRC last week. The visit, although limited to Kinshasa, offered very useful impressions of the progress on the electoral calendar, but also on the remaining challenges, on the human rights situation, humanitarian needs and the security situation.
Today I will address the elections, the overall security and human rights situation, the role of the UN, and share a few thoughts on the way forward.
When Sweden joined the Council in January 2017, a major crisis had just been avoided by the signing of the 31st December Agreement. The Agreement provides the roadmap towards peaceful, credible and inclusive elections on December 23, which is critical for peace and stability in the DRC and in the broader region.
The elections are now less than three months away. Important progress has made in recent months. We welcome the important preparatory steps that have been taken. Efforts are now urgently needed to implement all parts of the Agreement, including the confidence building measures. Opening of equal democratic space for all is essential, including the freedom of assembly and of expression. AS in any other country, the government has a special role in ensuring the fulfillment of these measures. Everyone must be able to campaign freely and peacefully, political prisoners must be released, and the political rights of all must be safeguarded.
Women’s full and equal participation in the elections is vital, and must be supported and encouraged. Unfortunately, the conditions for women’s participation still looks dire. Much more needs to be done to mitigate the political, economic, security and social impediments for women’s participation on equal terms.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has a critical role to play as preparations proceed. There is need for more proactive outreach and increased public information about the electoral process. This includes clear guidance on the functioning of the voter registry and the voting machines. Legitimate concerns and recommendations on how to improve these processes should be taken on board and considered in a transparent and collaborative fashion.
Independent election observers would bring further credibility to the electoral process and help to bring added trust and confidence. We welcome SADC’s intentions to support with an observation mission, and encourage the DRC to also engage with other national, regional and international actors. The UN and MONUSCO’s continued readiness to assist with technical and logistical support is welcomed. CENCO’s ambitious efforts to train and deploy national observers should be encouraged and supported.
Further efforts are clearly needed to build confidence and for the elections to be widely accepted amongst the Congolese people. Good offices functions by CENCO or the SRSG may be important in this regard. Any concerns with the conduct of the elections should be addressed peacefully and through established channels and institutions, and be duly considered in accordance with international norms and standards.
Continued regional leadership and international unity is key. The recent discussions in Kampala on advancing the Peace and Security Cooperation Framework, as referred to by the Special Envoy Djinnit, highlight the importance of regional coordination, including for the conduct of credible elections in the DRC. The joint statement by the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council earlier in July, illustrated international unity on the need for these elections to be credible.
We condemn continued human rights violations by armed groups in the DRC. We are especially concerned about the escalation of violence and attacks in and around Beni, in the Kasaïs and most recently in the mining town of Rubaya. Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread. The destabilizing activities of the armed groups is of grave concern.
It is important to never let violence and human rights violations become the new normal. All parties are responsible to this end. The government has a particular responsibility to address violence and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence. The high percentage of that are attributed to state agents is of grave concern. Fighting impunity is key, and we call on the government to strengthen efforts to ensure that those responsible for violations are held to account.
The fragile security situation has also had a negative impact on the Ebola response, as well as other humanitarian efforts. We call for a period of tranquility to allow for addressing the threat of Ebola. More funding is needed for the overall humanitarian response and not least safe an unimpeded humanitarian access must be granted.
We commend the work of MONUSCO, operating under difficult conditions and with an extensive mandate. We appreciate the more proactive posture of the mission, which has enabled better protection of both civilians and peacekeeepers. With limited resources, MONUSCO has been able to deliver important results. We fully support the mandate of the Mission and the continued good offices of SRSG Laila Zerrougui. It is important that MONUSCO is prepared to manage violence and insecurity in connection with the elections including in the post-election context. Continued efforts for the transfer of capacity can hopefully be explored after the elections.
The UN Country team also deserves credit for its important work exploring a broader peace and development agenda amid honorable efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in difficult circumstances. In an ideal scenario, venues will be opened up after the elections for a stronger development focus, based on a credible Government plan focusing on the long-term needs of the population for socio-economic development based on the SDGs.
I wanted to take this opportunity to note some new dynamics in the trial and investigation into the murders of UN experts Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp, also raised by my American colleague. We underscore the continued need for the DRC authorities to fully cooperate with the Follow-on Mechanism, initiated by the Secretary-General, and led by Mr. Robert Petit, as well as national investigations. It is also important that the national investigations take note of recommendations made by the mechanism, especially in terms of conducting thorough and legally robust investigations without artificial timelines for its completion. We welcome the anticipated extension of the mechanism. Swedish investigation still experiences issues relating to the cooperation with DRC authorities. We would also like to acknowledge the ongoing efforts by the Secretariat to improve the overall security and conditions for UN experts, an issue which requires the Council’s further attention and support.
To conclude, Mr. President,
Just as we landed in DRC we were met with the announcement that Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi hospital had been awarded the Nobel peace prize. This is a very significant recognition of all women affected by sexual abuse and it has shed light on the tremendous suffering that conflict-related sexual violence imposes on victims, their families and entire societies, in the DRC and elsewhere. Let us hope that the prize will help turn the corner towards putting an end once and for all to this most horrendous of crimes, and that women will be empowered to play a full and equal part in the future of the DRC.
The Congolese people have suffered for too long. The upcoming elections and the subsequent democratic transfer of power will offer an opportunity for renewed momentum in putting the interests of the people first. Credible and peaceful elections are necessary but not sufficient in the road ahead for the DRC. Moving from constant emergency mode and humanitarian crisis, towards real development based on the 2030 Agenda and the enjoyment of all Congolese of their fundamental rights, is necessary. All national stakeholders, countries in the region and the international community must now focus efforts to ensure that the opportunity to change the trajectory in the DRC is seized.
I thank you very much.