The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could lose recent gains in its democratisation process unless President Joseph Kabila starts to promote dialogue and accountability, and strengthens cooperation with the wider international community, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned.
The report, Congo: Consolidating the Peace, issued by the ICG on 5 July, warns that while the transition period, which ended with elections six months ago, helped to unify the country and improved security in some areas, governing institutions had remained weak, abusive or non-existent.
The national army, it added, was still the worst human rights abuser while another crisis is looming in the east.
"Despite Kabila’s strong mandate, the last months have seen the rapid paralysis of the state machinery, increased authoritarian tendencies and no decisive progress in the restoration of peace in the Kivus," said David Mugnier, ICG's Central Africa project director.
"Kabila and Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga need to acknowledge the shortcomings of the last months," the report stated.
"A return to full-scale war is unlikely but violence in Bas-Congo and Kinshasa in early 2007 with over 400 people killed and renewed threats of war in the Kivus show the country's fragility," it added.
Role for opposition
The ICG called for conditions that would allow for the return of opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and greater freedoms for parliament, the courts and media.
"Despite late but commendable efforts to grant it more space in parliament, the opposition's capacity to play that role remains severely undermined by the recurrent use of force against its supporters and the exile of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the main challenger to President Kabila during the recent election," the ICG said. "The opposition's virtual exclusion from governorships despite winning five provincial assembly elections is another sign of shrinking political pluralism."
On the volatile situation in North and South Kivu, the ICG called for urgent diplomacy and dialogue. "Much remains to be done to turn the army and police into competent, confidence-inspiring forces that can provide stability and tackle lawlessness, especially in the militia-dominated east," it noted.
It said the security situation in areas such as Ituri was better, but there had been little progress in disarming militia groups in the Kivus.
Kabila was elected president in 2006 after 40 years of authoritarian rule by Mobutu Sese Seko. Before being elected, he headed an interim administration that replaced his father, Laurent Desiré Kabila, who was assassinated in 2001 after toppling Mobutu.
At his inauguration, the 35-year-old Kabila promised to provide leadership and good governance during his five-year stewardship.
"The way forward lies in strengthening democratic governance," the ICG said. "Reform requires genuine political will to tackle impunity by vetting police and army officers and making courts independent."