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Different sentiments on display at the UN Security Council

Yesterday there was a “debate” (i.e. mostly an opportunity to read speeches) at the UN Security Council on the prevention of conflicts in the Great Lakes region.

On the critical issues of elections in the DRC, take a look at the differences in statements between the major western powers:

The US, after excoriating Congolese authorities for arresting youth activists, said:

There is no credible reason that the DRC election would not occur on schedule. The national election commission said in January that it would need 18 months to update voter rolls; but election experts assure us that this can be done in six months. As the representative of a country that continues to debate its own electoral processes, I recognize that elections are not always perfect, and certainly not always easy, but fidelity to the constitution – not to mention long-term stability – means that they must occur on time.

The UK struck a similar tone:

DR Congo must hold elections this year, in accordance with their Constitution. With every missed milestone in their democratic journey, the Government loses credibility with the United Kingdom, and I believe with this Council. It breaks a promise not to us, but a promise to its people and this risks causing further instability in this already fragile region.

However, the French were slightly more nebulous:

Les délais pris dans l’organisation de ces élections, prévues par la Constitution d’ici la fin de cette année, nous préoccupent dès lors, notamment, qu’ils risquent de provoquer une nouvelle période d’instabilité dans le pays. Et le respect des libertés publiques est un enjeu essentiel qui appelle toute notre vigilance. Nous appelons les autorités de la République démocratique du Congo à respecter leurs engagements constitutionnels et leurs engagements internationaux en matière de respect des droits de l’Homme et des libertés fondamentales, et incitons tous les acteurs au dialogue, sous toutes ses formes, et à ne pas recourir à la violence.

For the non-francophones: the French ambassador “called on” (a step down from the anglo “must”) the Congolese government “to respect their constitutional obligations.” The Congolese government will read volumes into this nuance as they look for division among donors.

A second issue of note. This debate, which was organized by the Angolan government, was an occasion for the UN to unfurl a new Regional Strategic Framework for the Great Lakes. I haven’t seen the document, but it contains six pillars: Sustainable natural resource management; economic integration, cross-border trade and food nutrition security; mobility; youth and adolescents; gender and sexual and gender-based violence; and justice and conflict prevention.

The Angolans and the UN touted this approach, which doubles down on the moribund Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) of 2013, possibly because it is less political and confrontational that the direct challenges to President Kabila and other heads of state in the region. After all, who can be against economic integration and food nutrition? The US and UK did not even mention the framework. An accidental omission, or an explicit diss?