The United Nations (UN) says it reviews contingency plans for its staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on a regular basis following a United States (US) travel alert to the country.
The State Department alert has halted most official US government travel into the DRC while the family members of government personnel have been ordered to leave the country over increased concerns around election related violence.
One of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world operates in the DRC with over 22 000 uniformed personnel, including contingents from South Africa on the ground.
The US travel alert says the potential for civil unrest in Kinshasa and other cities remains high after protests earlier this month claiming the lives of dozens of people. Secretary General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric explains that the UN mission in the country has a mandate to protect civilians.
“The peacekeeping mission in the country is very much aware of the delicate situation in terms of the potential for violence as we have seen recently; and the need for people to be able to exercise their rights to express themselves freely without harassment from security forces. So they are very much on top of the situation. If you are asking me about contingency plans for the UN itself, obviously those are reviewed on a constant basis. It is a peacekeeping mission in a challenging environment so there are always contingency plans in place.”
We would like to see a peaceful resolution to the current tensions
Opposition groups in the country have called on President Joseph Kabila’s government to abide by the Constitution that limits his tenure in office to 19 December.
Similar calls have been made by the United States, France and others but a new date for elections has not been set amidst growing fears that the incumbent plans to stay in office beyond his constitutional mandate. The UN has called for dialogue.
“We would like to see a peaceful resolution to the current tensions, the constitution to be followed, the UN is there to play a supporting role in this political dialogue,” says Dujarric.
Earlier, the United States expanded its targeted sanctions regime against leading security figures in the country.
“Specifically, the United States designated former national inspector for the Congolese National Police John Numbi for engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC, and Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba for being the leader of an armed group that has threatened the peace, security, or stability of the DRC,” says State Department Spokesperson John Kirby.
The sanctions freeze the assets of these individuals within US jurisdictions while prohibiting US citizens from engaging in transitions with them. Washington also sanctioned the Kinshasa police commissioner earlier this year.
“Today’s designations follow the listing in June of Celestin Kanyama and underscore our commitment to deter behaviour that undermines the DRC’s stability and democratic institutions at this critical point in its history. They also reflect our continued concerns about the violence and the lack of an inclusive agreement on an electoral timeline,” says Kirby.
The UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva also passed a resolution this week placing this country’s human rights situation under regular public review through 2017. Click below for more on the story: