The ax finally fell this Wednesday, European officials had to throw in the towel in the face of the refusal of the Congolese authorities to authorize experts to deploy in the country with their satellite equipment. Read the EU statement burying the observation mission
“However, it was a Congolese request”, is surprised by an employee of an international institution based in Kinshasa. It was in fact at the request of the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs that the European Union agreed to deploy a long-term election observation mission in the DRC.
Around forty European experts were planned. Nearly a hundred Congolese observers were to join them for a mission to observe the electoral campaign, the vote, the compilation and publication of the results.
The first Europeans on this mission arrived in Kinshasa a little over a week ago. “All the documents requested by the Congolese authorities have been duly completed and transmitted to the competent services. The Congolese authorities knew full well that we had satellite communications devices in our luggage”, explains a European. On the Congolese side, the Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime, Peter Kazadi again explained this Tuesday, October 28 that the blockage was essentially of an administrative nature, suggesting that a solution could still be found.
European dissension, international pressure
Since their arrival, the experts have in fact been deprived of their satellite phones, confiscated by the ANR intelligence services. Without these devices, it is impossible to deploy in the field. However, the experts had to be dispatched throughout the country with continental dimensions and had to do so quickly (They had to leave this Tuesday at the latest to 16 provinces) under penalty of bringing their observation mission into disrepute. “Some experts were to be in place for this Tuesday, November 28, the final deadline. Impossible to monitor the campaign if we arrive at the last minute”, explains our interlocutor. Discussions, described as lively, have taken place over the past week between officials of the European mission and the Congolese authorities. The European threat to pack up was clearly mentioned at the end of last week. “But last Friday, the Europeans wanted to be reassuring, they had received guarantees that they would recover their devices during the weekend“.
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In the end, it didn’t happen. Monday, November 27 in the evening, those responsible for the European mission raise the option of stopping their mission “in the face of Congolese ill will”. Not all EU members are on the same wavelength. Paris and Brussels, in particular, are reluctant to slam the door. MONUSCO is also trying to influence the position of the experts. The UN mission says it is convinced that “By Thursday, a positive solution can be found.”
But for European observers, this new delay is unacceptable. “Given the constraints linked to travel in this country, a possible green light on Thursday would in reality delay the mission for an additional week,” explains a good connoisseur of logistical issues in Africa.
“European expertise was a guarantee for the observation of this already much criticized election”, continues a European diplomat who “can only note the bad will of the Congolese authorities. This is very worrying, especially since this departure is taking place at a time when strong tensions are appearing between the CENI and the Catholics. »
Last Sunday, Cardinal Ambongo clearly expressed his doubts about the holding of the vote on December 20 and about the credibility of the elections if they go through the ballot box. A speech widely criticized by the head of the CENI, very close to power, Denis Kadima Kazadi, who asks the observation mission of the Catholic and Protestant Churches to dissociate itself from the cardinal’s remarks.
“There is little doubt that the Congolese government prefers to organize its elections away from the view of major observation missions. The European mission is particularly effective. The one set up by Catholics and Protestants is perhaps a little less efficient but it can be present absolutely everywhere, which is a formidable force which makes any manipulation of the vote very complicated.explains a Western observer who adds “It bodes badly for the elections. With each election, things go from bad to worse. We must fear that we will reach a new peak in irregularities this time. Given the unpreparedness and shortcomings, the CENI must request a postponement of the vote but President Tshisekedi, surrounded by a court of frightened zealots, is determined to pass in force. We risk experiencing very difficult times in the coming weeks.”