Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 13 November 2018, New York.
Thank you very much, Mr. President,
And thank you as well SRSG Leila Zerrougui for your and your team’s continuous tireless efforts. We believe that the UN, including your good offices, play a significant role and we deeply appreciate your updates to the Council. We are also very grateful to you, Ms. Mbela, for your valuable perspectives from the ground today, and we understand that the situation and the circumstances under which you operate aren’t always easy.
We are now less than two months away from decisive elections in the DRC. I was encouraged by the SRSG’s message today that the main players are committed to making sure that the electoral process is successful, because transparent, credible and inclusive elections would contribute to peace and stability in the DRC and the entire region. Should they fall short of that, none of this is secured anymore. This Council must therefore remain actively engaged. I would like to focus on three important aspects in the preparations for these elections; confidence building, ensuring democratic space, and international support.
Confidence in the electoral process will be key for the elections to be credible and produce an outcome acceptable to all. Important progress has been made in recent weeks, especially on the technical aspects of the preparations. However, significant challenges remain to bridge the confidence gaps. In this regard, we welcome the steps taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission CENI and of course SRSG Zerrougui to build trust in the electoral process. We call on all parties to re-engage in consultations to resolve outstanding issues, the government holds of course a particular responsibility in this regard.
Disagreement on voting rolls and voting machines, including the uncertainty around timely delivery of the equipment, continues to be of concern. There is still need for greater outreach and public information about the electoral process, including the voting machines, from CENI, the CENCO and other civil society stakeholders. This is especially important in regions outside of Kinshasa. There needs now to be a clear, common understanding among the main political actors as regards the outstanding technical aspects, including on the voting machines, in order to de-escalate tensions and quell over-politicizing of this issue.
The restrictions of democratic space continue to hamper the prospects for credible elections, as set out today by Ms. Mbela. The New Year’s Agreement and the confidence building measures foreseen in it, must be fully implemented by all parties. It is important that all candidates have the same possibilities to campaign, including through access to media.
National civil society led observations of the elections will play a crucial role and must be allowed to carry out their work without interference. Safeguarding the democratic space through ensuring the full and equal participation of women is also critical. This includes clear information about voting rights and registration processes.
The high levels of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, and other human rights violations and abuses must be addressed. The security situation, as we heard today, also has a direct impact on the Ebola response. We welcome Under-Secretary-General Lacroix’ and Director General Tedros’ recent visit to the DRC. The Council remains unified in its support to halt this health crisis, as reflected in the resolution that we adopted two weeks ago. We appreciate the government’s efforts, as well as that of the UN and health workers on the ground, and we continue to emphasize the need to prevent the disease from spreading, including to neighboring countries. We’ve heard the concerns in this regard today by the SRSG, including on the security situation in Beni.
We welcome the regional initiatives by SADC and the African Union to support the DRC with election observation missions. The government should be encouraged to also engage with other regional and international actors in this regard.
It is crucial that the United Nations and MONUSCO continue to assist the government and CENI before, during and after the elections. Technical support as well as the SRSG’s good offices are essential. MONUSCO should also continue to be prepared to support the logistical preparations of the elections.
International and UN staff, including election observers, peacekeepers and experts working in the DRC, must be able to safely carry out their tasks. The government bears the primary responsibility to protect international staff within its territory and to hold perpetrators accountable. We would like to recall that attacks on peacekeepers and UN personnel and experts are sanctionable offenses under the DRC sanctions regime.
The international community’s united support for credible elections is clearly demonstrated in the joint communiqué issued by the African Union PSC and this Council in July, as well as the AU, SADC, ICGLR and UN communiqué on the Peace and Security Cooperation framework. Maintaining that unity for the entire electoral cycle, including the post-election period, will be significant.
In closing, Mr. President,
Bridging the confidence gaps, ensuring democratic space, addressing violence and maintaining unified international support will be critical to ensure credible, transparent and inclusive elections in the DRC. Such elections on December 23 is not a panacea of all troubles, but it would be a crucial step towards peace and stability in the country, and indeed beyond.
I thank you very much.