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UN envoy urges rivals to quickly form government in Congo

July 24, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Congo urged the country’s current and former presidents on Wednesday to make concessions and quickly agree on a new government, saying the two-month delay is impacting the country’s “fragile” transition.

Leila Zerrougui told the Security Council that “laborious negotiations” have been continuing between President Félix Tshisekedi’s party and the front supporting former President Joseph Kabila since May 20 when Tshisekedi appointed Sylvestre Ilunga, a Kabila supporter, as prime minister.

“The lack of an operational government makes it difficult to establish robust relations with partners and to implement the important reforms in governance and institutions — reforms that could consolidate the process of transition that remains fragile,” she said.

Tshisekedi was declared winner of a long-delayed election after Kabila, under international pressure, relinquished power after 18 years. Tshisekedi’s victory was disputed by another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, who maintained that he won — but lost an appeal.

While Tshisekedi holds the presidency, however, Kabila’s coalition won a majority in parliament in the December elections. To avoid being a lame duck president, Tshisekedi had to strike a power-sharing deal and he chose Kabila backer Ilunga as prime minister, putting him in charge of forming a Cabinet in negotiations with his party.

Zerrougui expressed “both satisfaction and concern” about the political situation.

The U.N. envoy said she has “vigorously encouraged” key political players in recent months “to preserve the gains that have been made during the elections and the peaceful transition of power and encouraged them to make the necessary concessions to lead to a government being formed.”

On the positive side, Zerrougui said Tshisekedi has said he intends “to initiate brave reforms” which if implemented should reinforce the country’s institutions and improve the quality of life for the Congolese people.

The U.N. has also seen “progressive improvement in relations” between Congo and its neighbors since Tshisekedi took office, she said, adding that the president “is determined to make the Great Lakes region a haven of peace and development.”

In her wide-ranging briefing to the council, Zerrougui also focused on security and humanitarian issues.

She said violence in conflict areas is still having a “devastating impact on civilians” and cited increased fighting in several areas of eastern Congo in the past weeks.

In Ituri province, Zerrougui said, “spoilers are seeking to play on ethnic tensions to instigate inter-community violence.”

She said violence has sparked “simultaneous emergency situations, including mass displacement and protection threats.”

More than 350,000 people have been displaced in Ituri and 733,000 people in the province need assistance, Zerrougui said, while in South Kivu “the flare-up in intercommunity violence and armed group activity has displaced up to 180,000 people.”

In a piece of good news, she said an increasing number of combatants have expressed a willingness to lay down their arms since Tshisekedi came to office including the Kamuina Nsapu in the Kasais and Mai-Mai and Twa militia in South Kivu and Tanganyika.

Zerrougui said she has placed a priority on encouraging Congolese authorities to integrate ex-combatants into the community, rather than into the security forces.

“The broad integration of ex-combatants into the army and police forces in previous years only led to the degradation of their capacities, the hijacking of security policy by parallel networks, and incentiving the creation of illegal armed groups,” she said.

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This story corrects that Congo’s elections were in December, not January

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