The political crisis over President Joseph Kabila’s apparent bid to remain in power in the Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to escalate into large-scale violence, the UN envoy warned Tuesday.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo has entered a period of extreme risk to its stability,” Maman Sambo Sidikou told the UN Security Council, adding that he saw “no immediate resolution in sight” to the crisis.
All sides appear “more and more willing to resort to violence” and the prospects for political talks were dimming, he said.
“If this trajectory continues, I believe large-scale violence is all but inevitable,” he warned.
A wave of deadly clashes pitting police against demonstrators rocked the capital Kinshasa in September, as the opposition demanded Kabila’s resignation.
At least 49 civilians were killed in the clashes — 38 by gunshot, others burned alive or killed by machete, said Sidikou.
The UN mission in the DR Congo has documented the involvement of Kabila’s presidential guard in the violence, but “non-state actors” were also to blame, he said.
Sidikou, who also heads the 22,000-strong UN mission in the country, warned that UN peacekeepers would be unable to protect civilians if the DR Congo descends into all-out violence.
The MONUSCO mission will do everything it can to help civilians, but “the scope of the threats dramatically outstrip the mission’s capabilities,” he warned.
With new protests called for October 19, Sidikou said the United Nations and regional organizations must push for dialogue and urge the government to take confidence-building measures with the opposition.
The opposition is accusing Kabila, in power since 2001, of manipulating the electoral system to stay in power after his second and final term ends on December 2O.
Addressing the council, Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita described the September protests as a “genuine insurgency,” accusing demonstrators of raping and killing a 12-year-old girl on her way to school.
The government is ready to listen to proposals on the release of prisoners and other confidence-building measures toward the opposition, the ambassador said, but he warned that it would not bow to demands.
“Advise and suggestions are welcome but any verbal abuse or injunction, of any nature, is unacceptable,” said Gata Mavita.