Congolese Local Elections Calendar

Although Severine Autesserre (2010) and Zoe Marriage (2013) have, amongst others, heavily criticized the focus of international donors on organizing Congolese elections in 2006, the upcoming one are widely seen as tremendously important not just for the legitimacy of the government and Congolese politics, but also for their interconnected role in mitigating conflict across the East.
While the State’s monopole on violence is undoubtedly an issue in DRC, legitimacy does not just derive from being in control. Particularly in a country as big as Western Europe representation is important, as many conflict hotspots in the East are more than 1500 km away from the capital. The issue of elections in DRC is two-fold:

1) National elections: The last national elections in 2011 have been criticized by the international community, the main concern being that a delegitimized president Kabila might not be able to effectively govern the country. Although there have been outbreaks of violence mainly in Kinshasa, it seems that the degree of manipulation was small and within the acceptable limits for Congolese populations and elites. The opposition was divided and Kabila would have probably won anyway. After this experience and with five more years of relatively unsuccessful Kabila reign, tolerance for manipulation both from the Congolese and the International Community would probably be less this time around. However, the Congolese constitution only permits two terms for the president and Kabila would have to step down. He seems unwilling to do so and has tried to change the constitution, which has met quite a lot of resistance. The issue of national elections is thus quite a thriller.

2) Local elections: I personally think that these are even more important precisely because national Congolese politics are likely to remain flawed. In addition, local elections have not taken place before and will mark the beginning of the country’s decentralization, something that is utterly necessary. This is critical because of an assumed high correlation between representation and violence. Put simply, people that do not feel represented and do not see any chance to influence politics, government and administration are more likely to take up arms. The inverse is probably also true, if you have elected your representatives, you are less likely to take violent measures against him/ her even if that person is incompetent. Currently, there is no such thing as local elections and given that illegitimate national-level politics, it is no wonder that local communities feel totally disconnected from the government whose military and police representatives also happen to commit most human right violations. Local elections can give the state that people actually interact with more legitimacy and also make it more accountable. Below the schedule of the urban, municipal and local elections (Communique de presse N°024/CENI/14):
• Du 10 juin au 09 juillet 2014 : Accréditation des observateurs à long terme;
• Du 01 octobre au 20 octobre 2014 : Audit externe du fichier électoral;
• Du 03 au 20 novembre 2014: Examen de l’annexe à la loi électorale portant répartition des sièges ;
• Du 10 décembre 2014 au 18 janvier 2015: Convocation de l’électorat et dépôt des candidatures au niveau des bureaux de réception et traitement des candidatures ;
• Du 19 au 23 janvier 2015 : Retrait, ajout ou substitution des candidatures ;
• Le 13 février 2015: Publication de la liste provisoire des candidatures aux élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies ;
• Du 14 au 24 février 2015 : Dépôt des recours en contestation des listes des candidatures et leur traitement auprès et par les tribunaux administratifs ;
• Le 25 février 2015: Publication des listes définitives des candidats aux élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies ;
• Du 30 avril au 29 mai 2015 : Accréditation des témoins, des observateurs et des journalistes;
• Du 15 mai au 14 juin 2015 : Affichage des listes des électeurs par site de vote et bureau de vote ;
• Du 29 mai au 12 juin 2015 : Campagne électorale pour les élections des Conseillers des communes des et des secteurs/chefferies;
• Le 14 juin 2015: Jour du scrutin municipal et local; ouverture des bureaux de vote et de dépouillement pour les municipales et locales;
• Le 30 juin 2015 : Annonce des résultats pour les élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies;
• Du 01 au 08 juillet 2015: Dépôt des recours relatifs au contentieux des élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies;
• Du 09 juillet au 06 septembre 2015: Traitement des contentieux des élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies;
• Du 15 juillet au 18 août 2015: Installation des Conseils municipaux et locaux ;
• Le 07 septembre 2015 : Publication des résultats définitifs des élections des Conseillers des communes et des secteurs/chefferies;
• Du 05 au 18 juillet 2015: Réception et traitement des candidatures des Conseillers urbains, des Maires, des Bourgmestres et des Chefs de secteur;
• Le 3 août 2015 : Publication des listes provisoires des candidats Conseillers urbains, Maires, Bourgmestres et Chefs de secteur
• Du 04 au 12 août 2015: Contentieux des candidatures des Conseillers urbains, des Maires, des Bourgmestres et des Chefs de secteur (dépôt et traitement) ;
• Le 14 août 2015 : Publication de la liste définitive des candidats Conseillers urbains, Bourgmestres et Bourgmestres adjoints, Chefs de secteur et Chefs de secteur adjoints;
• Du 25 au 27 août 2015 : Campagne électorale des Conseillers urbains, des Bourgmestres et des Chefs de secteur;
• Le 29 août 2015 : Jour du vote des Conseillers urbains, des Bourgmestres et des Chefs de secteur;
• Du 29 au 30 août 2015 : Agrégation et annonce des résultats provisoires des Conseillers urbains, des Bourgmestres et des Chefs de secteur ;
• Du 31 août au 14 septembre 2015 : Recours et contentieux des résultats relatifs à l’élection des Bourgmestres et Bourgmestres adjoints, des Chefs de secteur et leurs adjoints;
• Le 15 septembre 2015 : Proclamation des résultats définitifs des Bourgmestres et Bourgmestres adjoints, des Chefs de secteur et leurs adjoints;
• Le 20 septembre 2015: Investiture des Bourgmestres et Bourgmestres adjoints et des Chefs de secteur et leurs adjoints;
• Du 31 août au 06 novembre 2015 : Recours et contentieux des résultats des élections des Conseillers urbains ;
• Du 14 septembre au 08 octobre 2015 : Installation des Conseils urbains;
• Du 11 au 13 octobre 2015 : Campagne électorale des Maires et Maires adjoints;
• Le 15 octobre 2015 : Jour de scrutin des Maires et Maires adjoints;
• Le 15 octobre 2015: Agrégation et annonce des résultats provisoires des Maires et Maires adjoints;
• Du 16 au 30 octobre 2015 : Recours et contentieux relatifs à l’élection des Maires et Maires adjoints;
• Le 31 octobre 2015 : Proclamation des résultats définitifs des Maires et Maires adjoints ;
• Le 05 novembre 2015: Investiture des Maires et Maires adjoints.

Perception surveys – a quiet revolution in peacekeeping?

The UN stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), in cooperation with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), has recently started a polling project on how Congolese perceive the security situation in the volatile East of the country. Amongst other things, participants are asked how secure they feel in different situations, who provides security to them and what could be done to improve this. MONUSCO plans to use this data to measure and improve its interventions particularly in regard to its mandate priority – the Protection of Civilians (PoC). This approach has the potential to be a revolution, representing a breakthrough in current practice and challenging established structures of power and decision-making within UN peacekeeping.

Generally, measuring protection is quite difficult because of the term’s broad definition, incorporating a whole range of overlapping issue-areas and activities. In Peacekeeping alone, PoC is conceptualized in three pillars: protection through political processes, physical protection, and creating a protective environment. Concentrating on one of these areas, such as physical protection, would make measurement possible, but would not live up to the holistic nature of the protection concept and it would also remain difficult to attribute impact as the other pillars also contribute to protection-related outcomes. Furthermore, spanning over the fault lines of security actors, humanitarians, human rights organizations, etc., there exists a lack of coordination between organizations result in unclear responsibilities and low accountability which in return increase difficulties with measurement.

Thus, asking the population about how protected they feel seems to be a practical way of dealing with these challenges and holds a lot of promise for improving peacekeeping interventions: First, measuring its protection activities would allow MONUSCO to see what works and adjust its approaches accordingly. Second, survey results would hold the mission accountable, increasing the pressure on strategic decision-making as well as staff performance. The results would also allow for more specific advocacy to those peacekeeping contingents and Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) that are reluctant to effectively patrol and engage with armed groups. Finally, a better understanding of the threats that populations face and how they cope with them could be the basis for developing more appropriate strategies, mechanisms and activities.

There is, however, a problem related to the priorities of peacekeeping and the particular discrepancy between headquarters and the field. Critical voices state that neither in their assessment of needs, nor in their activities have Peacekeeping-missions been particularly oriented towards populations. Their top-down, macro-level interventions often seem like prescribed, blue-print like approaches that are unconnected to the local context (Autesserre 2010). In the case of Congo, the choices made seem to reflect other priorities than the security of local communities. MONUC’s strong support for the 2006 elections has, for example, provided a legitimate partner with whom the international community can work, but who has shown little inclination to improve the security and well-being of the Congolese population. In her recent book “Formal Peace and Informal War”, Zoe Marriage emphasizes that stabilizing the Congo has allowed the liberalization of the Congolese mining sector, whilst allowing patterns of exploitation, violent domination and abuse to continue. This stands in full contradiction to the primacy of PoC in MONUSCO’s mandate and its underlying rhetoric of human security, as well as to the many dedicated MONUSCO staff in DRC, who work countless hours to improve the lives of Congolese.

To explain these contradictions, it is helpful to emphasize that the decision-making processes in New York do not only take place far away from the realities on the ground, but play out according to unique contextual dynamics as well as varying political and organizational interests. Negotiations on peacekeeping mandates in the UN Security Council are, for example, fed by the information from reports, but are centered around political dynamics and priorities of member states. It is no secret that these strive for symbolic and political capital, thus sometimes agreeing to a resolution for reasons that are entirely unrelated to the case under discussion. Schlichte and Veit (2007) have compared similar donor processes to the potlatch ritual of Native Americans, where gifts are distributed because of social dynamics and status. Likewise, research by Stensland and Sending (2011, 2013) suggests that organizations such as OCHA, DPKO and UNHCR frame PoC in a way that reflects their organizational interests rather than the necessities the field.

It can thus be concluded that the inclusion of local realities and the increased pressure to react to them, as to be expected from successful surveys, goes against the established (power) structures of peacekeeping. This challenge is neither open nor widely acknowledged, but reacting appropriately to the survey results would mean that decision-making and priority-setting at headquarters would be curtailed by the realities and needs of the field. Those pushing the survey within MONUSCO should thus assure that the data is methodologically correct and relevant. In a second step, they need to publicize it widely, ideally also organizing events at Kinshasa and New York, in order to increase the pressure to react to it. However, for MONUSCO to engage in spreading the survey results might be somewhat counter-intuitive, as they seem to provide a pretty grim assessment of the mission’s protection activities.

The Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping

book cover
Last week, I finally had the time to finish de Carvolho and Sending’s book on the Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping. On top of a foreword by former Emergency Relief Coordinator (aka head of OCHA) Jan Egeland, an introduction and an outro by the two editors, the book provides input in nine different chapters. The starting point is PoC’s persistent paradox: while protecting civilians in peacekeeping situations requires a comprehensive approach that combines humanitarian, human rights, security and political processes, the broad understanding results in confusion and makes PoC mandates difficult to implement in practice.

Accordingly, the book begins with four chapters on conceptual developments and the evolution on PoC mandates. Noteworthy is chapter three, which differentiates PoC from its twin concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), stating that “PoC is meant mainly as a guide to how to act, not a trigger for whether to act”. The authors therefore caution that the two should be kept separately to avoid that R2P interventionist character tarnishes the legitimacy of PoC, which largely reflects what the Secretary General said himself in 2012. But the most interesting chapter is Stensland and Sending’s political economy analysis of protection. According to their argument, PoC is the playfield in which OCHA, DPKO, UNHCR and others formulate and advance different aspects of protection to compete for influence and resources. The uncertainty of the term is thus not mere coincidence, neither is it caused by the inherent challenges of protecting civilians, but rather represents the product of differing views and organizational interests. Particularly OCHA had good reasons to press for a vague and comprehensive definition of PoC, as it allowed addressing more issues, secure influence in the UN Security Council, and representing the demands of the humanitarian community.

In a second part, the book then turns to five case studies of PoC implementation in Africa: MONUC (Congo), AMIS and UNAMID (Darfur), UNMIS (South Soudan), MINURCAT (Chad) and UNMIL (Liberia). The empirical descriptions from the field are intended to familiarize the reader with the challenges for implementation, and provide an overview over the heterogeneity of understandings and practice. At the same time, reinforcing the understanding of practice also allows for a more academic perspective of the rupture between headquarters and field and the way that protection discourses are created and influenced on these different levels. However, although giving the reader a useful idea about what protection looks like in practice, the field chapters remain too descriptive and context specific. Instead of this sort of a report style, I would have expected more analysis, the identification of underlying mechanisms and maybe even some use of theory to produce real arguments and insights.

Obviously, this is a must read for people that are interested in or working on how the UN does protection. Originally quite excited about this book, I was disappointed that the leading researchers on protection have mainly restated earlier articles in not very engaging writing.

Oxfam’s new protection report on eastern DRC

Today Oxfam published a new protection report that is based on the perceptions of 1800 individuals in 30 conflict-affected communities in the Kivus. Oxfam has conducted similar surveys since 2007 and people have said pretty much the same thing: insecurity is persistent because the state does not protect the population against armed groups. Although the security situation has improved since the defeat of the M23, rebels groups continue to prey on the population particularly in remote areas. And in some places, insecurity has increased as the splintering of armed groups has led to more acts of banditry. People have also expressed their concerns about military operations against the ADF and the FDLR as similar operations have led to great amounts of suffering in the past.

Giving voice to the members of the affected communities to describe their experiences of abuse and violence is the point forte of this report: “We live like cats and mice here. If you resist the demands of a soldier you will be beaten.” Even for those of us working in the Congo, the quotes are powerful and show a normality of violence not so far from where we quite comfortably live.

Instead of MONUSCO bashing, this report concentrates on the responsibility of the Congolese government for providing protection. Communities clearly identify the lack of payment to FARDC (army) and PNC (police) as the primary reason for both their incapacity to effectively combat rebels, and the violations that they commit themselves in order to survive. The report recognizes the improvements that have been achieved in regards to payment and fighting impunity but states that the momentum gained by the victory over the M23 needs to be capitalized on. For the first time in years national, regional and international commitment have been aligned but “the DRC government must move beyond promises and commitments into actions”.

Communities have expressed the positive impact of MONUSCO activities like patrols, advocacy and organizing meetings, especially “when it (the mission) was able to establish strong contacts directly with the communities” (p.3/p.15). The Community Liaison Assistants (CLAs) are found of particular value as they play an important role in the coordination of protection actors on the local level as well as in organizing civil society. Perceptions also indicate that CLAs will have to continue to engage in outreach activities, that is explaining what the mission is doing. Accordingly, the report recommends strengthening CLAs role and increasing their mobility as well as the number of female CLAs.