Statement delivered by Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 5 December 2016.

There has been no shortage of warnings to the Security Council regarding the risk of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The failure to undertake timely preparations for the electoral list were apparent a year ago. And in July, the Deputy Secretary-General warned the Security Council (see S/PV.7732) that violence and instability associated with a political crisis could still preventable if an inclusive political agreement could be reached.  

We saw early signs of that instability and violence manifest itself, with dozens killed on 19 and 20 September. But a slow, burning situation can be among the most challenging for the Security Council to address when we are confronted with so many emergencies at the same time. And influencing the parties in a situation that has been on the Security Council’s agenda for so long is not easy.  

Visiting missions, like the one we undertook last month, are important in order to engage directly with the Governments and other stakeholders, listen to them and deliver messages from Council members directly to the parties. We are pleased that we have now agreed on a common set of messages in today’s presidential statement S/PRST/2016/18.  

That is an important outcome, although ideally it would have been preferable to issue the statement closer to the time of the visit. There are a few points that deserve particular emphasis.  

First, the Congolese political leadership — both in Government and opposition — must heed the calls from the Council to act with a spirit of compromise to achieve a consensus political agreement on the path ahead, building on the 18 October agreement and before the scheduled end of the President’s current term at the end of December.  

Secondly, political leaders on all sides need to encourage a political environment in which the Congolese can freely engage, with freedom of assembly and the media, while avoiding incitement of violence.  

Thirdly, as was underscored by our visit and meetings in Luanda, the region is among those first to face the implications of conflict, and it has a key role to play in building support for an inclusive political agreement.  

The Congolese continue to suffer from insecurity in the eastern parts of the country. When we were in Beni last month, we saw the fear and anger felt by Congolese who are suffering from appalling human rights abuses. While addressing the immediate political crisis in Kinshasa, we must also remain engaged on the imperative of stabilizing the security situation in the east, protecting civilians, neutralizing armed groups, such as Allied Democratic Force and the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, and establishing accountability for the human rights abuses that have taken place. The Congolese authorities have the lead role to play in achieving that, supported by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). At the same time, MONUSCO must devote resources and be well prepared for conflict risks associated with the political crisis. The Mission’s ongoing contingency-planning efforts are particularly important in that regard, as outlined by Mr. Sidikou. 

Finally, we would have seen real value in Assistant Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour participating in this briefing to share his observations on his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights inside the country. Indeed, the linkage between human rights abuses as a potential driver of conflict could not be clearer than the present circumstances.