On Thursday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) electoral commission announced that the elections will be delayed by another week. The vote will now be held on Sunday 30th December.
Unrest is likely to continue in the coming days, and more deaths – potentially many more deaths – are expected. Multiple governments have warned their citizens to leave the country, as border closures are likely. We have pulled together recent developments, travel advice and news coverage.
The DRC has a very difficult and bloody history, as the huge and mineral rich country is racked by corruption, poor infrastructure, poverty, disease, and violence.
If this election were to pass peacefully and successfully, it would be the first democratic transfer of power since the nation of 80 million gained independence from Belgium in 1960. However, this seems unlikely to happen. President Kabila became leader following the assassination of his father in 2001. He was due to step down in 2016, but has been clinging to power through various means. Many people have been killed in the subsequent protests and rallies relating to his decision.
- Kinshasa’s governor – an ally of President Kabila – banned campaigning in the capital for ‘security reasons‘. A large opposition rally had been planned.
- Reuters reports that ‘more than 100 people have died in clashes between rival ethnic groups in northwestern‘ Mai-Ndombe province in the last week.
- Police have repeatedly used live rounds and tear gas to break up protests. Unrest in Tshikapa, Kasai, on Tuesday lead to the death of at least one person as security forces attempted to disperse the crowd.
- Last Thursday, a massive warehouse fire destroyed 80% of the capital’s voting machines. The capital is home to over 15% of the country’s population and is a stronghold of the opposition. The loss of voting materials has been cited as the reason for the election delay.
- Earlier in the month, aid agencies accused the UN OCHA of ‘bowing to government pressure‘ and ‘manipulating data ahead of elections to give an overly positive impression of the situation in a country beset by conflict and disease.’
Violence and evacuations
There are concerns that violence will escalate. Mobile networks and the internet may be limited or shut down in the case of unrest. Earlier in the week, the US Government ordered non-emergency personnel and their families leave the country. A curfew is in place for the remaining employees, who are forbidden from travelling between 19:00 and 06:00.
Potential border closures
Before the election was delayed, the US Embassy in Kinshasa warned that all land and maritime borders may be closed from Saturday 22nd – Monday 24th December, and that there are further reports that all borders were to close for 24 hours in Saturday. It is unclear at this time whether this closures will go ahead, whether they will be delayed as well. International flights were expected to continue during the shutdown. Border closures will lead to crowds and delays, potentially further exacerbating the security situation.
As a further complicating factor, the ebola outbreak continues to spread. The latest report from the World Health Organisation is available here.
This piece of the video recorded the moment when @WHO Ebola response team escorted by UN troops on their way to the villages affected by Ebola in #DRC were ambushed. That is the value of the organization! Proud of being the part of it! pic.twitter.com/3OVDPKvz9T
— Ren Minghui (@RMinghui) December 20, 2018
- Review your travel risk management plan, so you know exactly what to do in an emergency. Make sure you check in regularly with your security team and agree in advance what will happen if you miss a check in time. If you do not have a formal arrangement with a security provider, strongly consider finding someone qualified to provide assistance.
- Minimise your travel, especially around large cities or areas of previous unrest. The Irish authorities are advising against travel to/from N’djili (Kinshasa) International airport.
- You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events. Do not attempt to film or photograph any gatherings.
- Be aware that violence is very likely, and can occur without warning.
- Be aware that if the security situation deteriorates, commercial flights will likely be suspended and border crossings could be closed. You should consider leaving the country now, in order to avoid this outcome.
- Make sure you have important contact information stored in a secure offline location. Know who to call and when.
- Internet and mobile phone networks may be reduced or shut off entirely. Make sure you have a back up communication plan in place.
- Monitor local media and social media. Check in with your embassy regularly.
- Set aside some supplies of food and bottled water. Make sure you know where your first aid kit is and review the contents.
- Keep your devices charged. Do not travel without a fully charged device.
- If you have to travel, make sure you travel during daylight hours only.
- Check in regularly with friends and family. Agree check in times in advance and set up a plan for what to do if you miss a check in time.
- If something does happen, contact the local embassy as soon as it is safe to do so.
Official travel advice
A very brief overview of official travel advice for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Click through on the links to read the advisories in full.
|US State Department||Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Do not travel to:
|UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office||The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the DRC, including the capital city, Kinshasa.
|Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade||
|New Zealand’s Safe Travels||Do not travel to eastern and north-eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including the provinces of Haut-Uele, Haut Lomami, Ituri, Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Maniema, Tanganyika, North and South Kivu and within 50 kilometres of the border with the Central African Republic. This is due to the unstable security situation, ongoing armed conflict and violent crime.
Avoid non-essential travel to your security elsewhere in the DRC due to the potential for civil unrest and violent crime.
|Government of Canada||Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) – AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Avoid non-essential travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to the current political and security situation. If your presence is not essential, you should consider leaving ahead of the December 23, 2018 presidential elections.
Eastern and northeastern areas of the DRC – Avoid all travel
Kasaï provinces – Avoid all travel
|Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade||The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).|
Headlines and coverage
New in Commentary: Congo’s long-delayed election has been postponed again. @DavidAndelman on how the U.S. approach to the DRC highlights the flaws in Trump’s Africa policy. https://t.co/iGnrJDaDpG pic.twitter.com/QDSe8adhFk
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 20, 2018
— Daniel Finnan (@Daniel_Finnan) December 20, 2018
DRC’s electoral commission postpones long-awaited elections, citing the destruction of voting materials for Kinshasa during a warehouse fire. The vote has been rescheduled for 30 December. https://t.co/cLIbBXP7vJ
— RFI English (@RFI_English) December 20, 2018
— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) December 20, 2018
Richard Kasimba, a @WFP colleague in Democratic Republic of Congo, was killed Monday during an ambush as he drove to monitor a food distribution. I met Richard when I visited DRC last year; his death is a sad reminder that humanitarian workers should never, ever be a target. pic.twitter.com/FZkRahsEeB
— David Beasley (@WFPChief) December 19, 2018
Kenya’s former PM Raila Odinga, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo+former presidents of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma & Ghana John Dramani Mahama
‘recommend AU,SADC,UN,EU create joint situation room to respond to any event tht wil compromise credibility of DRC election’ pic.twitter.com/TeHpS8pM92
— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) December 20, 2018
Two decades of protracted conflict and one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies: the challenges ahead as the DRC eyes political change https://t.co/PIurANE70o
— IRIN News (@irinnews) December 20, 2018
Did you know all of DRC’s leaders since independence? With just 5️⃣ days to go until the long-awaited presidential elections in DR Congo, we are starting the countdown. pic.twitter.com/Q4WCyBgP9i
— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) December 18, 2018
— Ryan McCarthy (@mccarthyryanj) December 20, 2018
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