Following the 18-year tenure of Joseph Kabila, Felix Tshisekedi was elected President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in January 2019. The elections were marred by accusations of late poll openings, balloting issues and voter intimidation. Despite questions around the legitimacy of the election result, President Tshisekedi’s inauguration marked the first peaceful transition of power in DRC since its independence in 1960.
Some progress has been made since President Tshisekedi assumed power in January, including first steps towards political relaxation and the opening of democratic space. Commitments have been made to national recovery based on respect for the rule of law; the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; the fight against impunity and against corruption; and an improvement of the security situation.
The DRC government, led by Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, has translated the President’s commitments into an ambitious reform programme.
However, the political and security situation in the DRC remains extremely challenging, with many active armed groups complicating efforts to address security and humanitarian concerns.
Almost 13 million people in the DRC are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. At present there are several humanitarian crises; these include disease outbreaks (cholera, Ebola, malaria, measles) and mass displacements of people. Driving the multiple crises are conflict, political instability, competition for land and natural resources, and poverty. DRC is currently experiencing the world’s second largest ever Ebola outbreak and the first ever outbreak in a conflict area. Over 3,300 people have been infected and over 2,100 have died.
A large UN-led peacekeeping and humanitarian infrastructure is in place in DRC. MONUSCO, has been present in eastern DRC since 1999 and currently some 18,000 military and civilian staff are deployed as part of this mission, including three members of the Irish Defence Forces. An Independent Strategic Review of MONUSCO was conducted in 2019 ahead of the renewal of its mandate in December 2019.
A large humanitarian community is also present in DRC but given the scale of humanitarian needs, scarce resources, and the long standing structural drivers of instability, humanitarian actors are experiencing difficulties in reacting to emergencies.
During this year, WHO has documented approximately 390 attacks on health facilities, leading to ten killed and 83 injured. In recent weeks the number of security incidents in DRC has increased significantly, especially in parts of the east of the country. WHO has evacuated 173 staff from Biakato Mines and Mangina.
Since the start of November the increasingly active conflict between the FARDC, the national army, and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has led to the deaths of an estimated 100 people in the Beni region with thousands of others displaced. Recently, protests took place in Beni and in Butembo as communities affected by severe violence engaged in demonstrations. On 25 November, a crowd marched to the camp of MONUSCO in Beni to protest against the latest fatal attack by the ADF, in which eight people died, and the failure of the UN and government troops to prevent the attack. Protesters torched a building on the UN base and the town hall in Beni.
In 2019, Ireland provided €7.8 million in development and humanitarian assistance to UN and NGO partners in DRC, including €2 million to WHO in response to the Ebola outbreak. Ireland continues to work with EU and its Member States to address the humanitarian situation and the drivers of poverty and conflict in DRC.