Moment of Truth in the Congo

Date: 
Dec 18, 2011

Contacts: Matt Brown, mbrown@enoughproject.org, +1.202.468.2925
Autumn Lerner, Eastern Congo Initiative, +1.206.265.3744

Seattle, WA and Washington, D.C. – Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) and the Enough Project call on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to help resolve the growing crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Congo’s November 28 national elections were marred by widespread mismanagement and fraud. Johnnie Carson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said on Thursday: “The U.S. government along with some of our international partners has found the management and technical aspect of these elections to be seriously flawed, the vote tabulation to be lacking in transparency, and not on par with positive gains in the democratic process that we have seen in other recent African elections.” Friday’s ruling by the Congolese Supreme Court, the last step in the official Congolese process of ratifying election results, merely rubberstamped the already discredited results reported by the Congolese National Electoral Commission.

“DRC is poised on the edge. On November 28, together with ECI Founding Member Cindy McCain, we witnessed overwhelming voter turnout, particularly among women and youth voting for the first time,”  said Whitney Williams, Eastern Congo Initiative CEO. “On Election Day, the Congolese people showed their determination to have their voices heard, but it has become clear that the institutions of the Congolese state have failed the Congolese people. Today, no one can know who actually won last month’s election. The international community, led by the United States, must work with the Congolese to find a way back towards democracy and away from violence.”

Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast stated, “The potential for large-scale violence grows by the day.  This electoral process was not credible, and as such the United States and broader international community should not recognize its results.  A major diplomatic initiative is necessary to prevent a new Congolese conflict and targeted attacks on the basis of political party affiliation. “

The United States has said repeatedly and publicly that it stands for credible, democratic elections in the Congo. Now it is time for actions to back those words. Senators Coons (D-DE) and Isakson (R-GA) pointed the right way by stating on Friday: "All sides should engage in dialogue about next steps and consider establishing a formal mediation process with the support of the international community.  We call on President Kabila to direct his security forces to protect the Congolese people, and work with Mr. Tshisekedi to resolve their disagreements in a way that will restore credibility to the process. The U.S. stands with the Congolese people in their attempt to advance democracy and hope it can be achieved peacefully."

ECI and Enough call on President Obama and Secretary Clinton to:

  • Immediately state that, since the election results are not credible and do not conform to basic international standards, that the United States does not recognize these results as a legitimate democratic outcome.
  • Call for the formation of an international panel, perhaps under the auspices of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, to work with Congolese authorities and opposition leaders to review all aspects of the electoral process, with a mandate to evaluate the results and recommend next steps. This would include a detailed technical review conducted by international experts of every aspect of the Presidential election, with a view to establishing the extent and effect of all the reported irregularities and fraud.
  • Ensure urgent high level international mediation between the parties to prevent the escalation of violence.
  • Make clear to President Kabila that he should delay any inauguration until the legitimate, democratic winner of the election is known via a credible, internationally sanctioned process. If President Kabila wishes to regain the democratic legitimacy that he said was so important to him after he won elections in 2006, he needs to accept international mediation to find a way to resolve the present crisis.
  • Emphasize to President Kabila that his security forces must not resort to violence in the face of legal, peaceful civilian demonstrations.
  • Lay the groundwork for possible referral to the International Criminal Court of anyone using violence against civilians to further their political objectives.

"If the U.S. Administration and the international community delay in taking action to address the situation in the Congo they risk not only potential violence in the coming days but the prospect of an unstable and illegitimate government for years to come," said John C. Bradshaw, Enough Project Executive Director.

“With quick action by the U.S., there is still time to find a solution that respects the will of Congolese voters and their demonstrated desire for democracy. Without U.S. leadership, Congo may descend into the kind of instability and violence that characterized the country just a few years ago, effectively crippling economic development and impacting the safety, health and vitality of women and children most of all,” said Cindy McCain, Philanthropist and Founding Member of Eastern Congo Initiative.