The Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrates its independence from Belgium on Friday, June 30. On June 29, authorities announced that the annual military parade in Kinshasa would be canceled due to rising security concerns. Despite the cancelation, public rallies will likely take place. Anti-government protests critical of President Joseph Kabila’s prolonged mandate are also possible. An enhanced security presence should be expected on Friday, particularly in Kinshasa.
DRC faces increasing political polarization as a result of President Kabila’s resolve to remain in power beyond his constitutional limit, which expired at the end of 2016. A peace agreement signed between Kabila and the “Rassemblement” grouping of opposition parties at the end of December 2016 looked as though it could bring an end to the violent protests that had been ongoing in the country since September. However, the peace agreement has faced a series of significant challenges that threaten to derail its implementation.
Creating further instability, presidential elections that should be held before the end of the year continue to be delayed. The government has blamed both budgetary constraints and continued violence – particularly in the Kasai provinces – for these delays. While these complexities will no doubt prove to be real challenges for the holding of elections, it is also apparent that Kabila is willing to drag out the political process as he attempts to remain in power. As a result, continued political protests and civil unrest should be expected, with the chance of violent crackdown by security forces.
In addition, insecurity linked to the presence of armed groups and corresponding military operations against them persists in the eastern and central areas of the country. Kasai, Kasai Central, and Kasai Oriental provinces have been wracked by violence, with ongoing clashes between the Kaminwa Nsapu militia and government forces. The security situation in eastern DRC, including North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, is also volatile as a result of numerous rebel groups and armed criminal gangs operating in the region. As the political process in Kinshasa stalls, grievances over socio-economic and political conditions could exacerbate intercommunal violence throughout the country.
Individuals present in the DRC are advised to monitor local developments, to maintain a high degree of situational awareness (be alert to and report any suspicious objects or behavior), and avoid all rallies and demonstrations.
More generally, individuals in the DRC are advised to exercise caution and maintain a low profile at all times. For various security reasons, a number of Western governments advise their citizens against travel to the east and northeast of the country.