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MILITIA GROUP ATTACKED VOTER REGISTRATION OFFICE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Region of Concern: Democratic Republic of Congo

Written Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Cameron Munoz

Date: April 3, 2023


Map of Lubero Territory[1]


Event: On Sunday, April 2, the Mai-Mai Yira militia attacked a voter registration office in Lubero Territory’s Vuranda in the North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Another military group, the People’s Union for the Liberation of Congo (UPLC), controlled the voter registration office at the time, and a militiaman was shot dead during the attack. The Mai-Mai Yira militia is part of the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group that pledged allegiance to ISIS. The UPLC formed to counter the attacks from ADF in the region but started attacking the government after they postponed the elections in 2018.[2] Local armed groups operating in the region control several identification and registration centers for voters in the Lubero Territory.[3] Previous instances of violence during the last month have also targeted registration offices in the North Kivu Province.[4] Elections in the DRC will take place on December 20, and voter registration in the eastern provinces began in February.[5]


Significance: The Mai-Mai Yira militia and ADF will very likely continue to target other electoral offices and ramp up their attacks to further their goal of an Islamic state as the election date gets closer. As the election date approaches, more civilians will likely visit election offices, resulting in mass casualties when armed groups target these locations. Targeted attacks will likely lead to counterattacks on the ADF, further increasing the violence and destabilizing the region. Attacks and seizures of election offices will likely deter voter registration, negatively impacting voter turnout. The government's inability to stop the violence against democratic institutions will likely result in other groups, like the UPLC, taking control over the electoral process in certain regions. Armed groups controlling the local elections will likely lead to the government declaring the election results invalid, very likely resulting in protests and targeted violence against the government in other places in the country. The attacks on electoral offices and government institutions will likely lead to the government sending more police and military to the area, likely leading to further clashes with local militias rather than de-escalating the situation.


Recommendations: The military should increase intelligence gathering about potential attacks and boost the protection of electoral offices in the Lubero Territory. They should also work with the United Nations peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), which should increase their presence in the eastern DRC before the election. International electoral observing organizations, such as the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), should also increase their presence in the DRC to monitor the electoral process and potential disruptions. The US and EU governments should increase funding to these organizations. The upcoming elections are an opportunity to involve the armed groups in a peace process, so the DRC government should engage in talks with the armed groups about a potential ceasefire and a peace agreement. The DRC government should also work with the non-profit organization Synergy of Citizen Election Observation Missions (SYMOCEL), which comprises 11 civil society organizations, to involve local community leaders and engage every part of society in the democratic process.

 

[2] DR Congo (Zaire), Uppsala Conflict Data Program, https://ucdp.uu.se/country/490

[3] Lubero: des Maï-Maï Yira attaquent un centre d’enrôlement d’électeurs à Vuranda, des opérations perturbées, Radio Okapi, April 2023, https://www.radiookapi.net/2023/04/03/actualite/securite/lubero-des-mai-mai-yira-attaquent-un-centre-denrolement-delecteurs (translated by Google)

[4] Butembo: un policier tué lors d’une attaque armée dans un centre d’enrôlement des électeurs, Radio Okapi, March 2023, https://www.radiookapi.net/2023/03/11/actualite/securite/butembo-un-policier-tue-lors-dune-attaque-armee-dans-un-centre (translated by Google)

[5] Voter registration underway in Eastern DRC, Africa News, February 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/02/16/voter-registration-underway-in-eastern-drc/

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