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UN envoy warns new Congo crisis could impact its security

December 8, 2020 GMT
In this image made from UNTV video, Felix Tshisekedi, President of Congo, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the U.N. General Assembly's special session to discuss the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. (UNTV via AP)
In this image made from UNTV video, Felix Tshisekedi, President of Congo, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the U.N. General Assembly's special session to discuss the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. (UNTV via AP)
In this image made from UNTV video, Felix Tshisekedi, President of Congo, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the U.N. General Assembly's special session to discuss the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. (UNTV via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Congo warned Monday that the political crisis in Congo sparked by the end of a coalition between the parties of President Felix Tshisekedi and former president Joseph Kabila may affect the African nation’s economic and security situation if it isn’t resolved.

Leila Zerrougui told the U.N. Security Council it can play a significant role and foster a negotiated settlement that would place “the interests of the Congolese people above short-term political goals which are liable to further foment tensions.”

The 15 council members held closed consultations after her briefing but took no immediate action and made no statement.

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Stressing that Congo “cannot afford a grave institutional crisis,” Zerrougui said it needs “stable and functional institutions” that can get to work as soon as possible and focus on national economic recovery and stabilizing the country’s volatile mineral-rich east ahead of general elections scheduled for 2023.

Tshisekedi announced the decision to scrap the alliance between his Cap for Change party and the pro-Kabila Common Front for the Congo party on Sunday after months of political deadlock in Congo’s legislature where Kabila’s supporters have a majority. The president cited disputes on issues affecting security, the organization of elections, independence of the judiciary and management of the vast country, which is the size of Western Europe.

Tshisekedi said he was appointing an official to identify a new parliamentary majority that will support his reform agenda, and if that is not possible he threatened to dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

Tshisekedi took over from Kabila in January 2019 after a disputed vote in Congo’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Zerrougui, who heads the nearly 17,500-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, said that following Tshisekedi’s announcement, Kabila’s party “rejected the diagnosis of a crisis” and called the president’s decision to scuttle the coalition “unconstitutional.” At the same time, she said, a number of civil society and opposition representatives welcomed and supported the president’s assessment and decisions.

The U.N. envoy noted, with regret, “that there have been heated tensions between the fighters and militants of the two political forces around the parliament.”

In light of the escalating tensions, Zerrougui said, she and others in the peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO have met over the past month with representatives from both sides as well as civil society representatives “seeking to prompt them to resolve their differences through dialogue and seeking to avoid any further provocations that may inflame violence.”

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“We shall continue to harness our good offices to facilitate an expeditious and peaceful resolution to this delicate political situation, a situation which, if it persists, may have serious and adverse consequences on the economic and security situation in the country, amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” she warned.