You are here:

House of Commons Library

Security and political situation in the African Great Lakes region

Published Friday, January 6, 2017

The House of Commons Library prepares a briefing in hard copy and/or online for most non-legislative debates in the Chamber and Westminster Hall other than half-hour debates. Debate Packs are produced after the announcement of parliamentary business. They are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issue being debated and identify relevant briefings and useful documents, including press and parliamentary material. More detailed briefing can be prepared for Members on request to the Library.

Jump to full report >>

The international community has expressed serious concern over the current political climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as alarm over the security, political and human rights situation in Burundi.

During 2016, the political and security situation in the DRC deteriorated. President Joseph Kabila and his allies announced a delay until April 2018 of parliamentary and presidential elections which were originally due in late-2016. Although a small part of the political opposition went along with this move, it sparked significant street protests.  At least 34 people were reportedly killed by the security forces in December. However, on New Year’s Eve the Catholic Church brokered a broader-based deal under which elections will take place by the end of 2017, in which Kabila will not stand for a third-term. A transitional government with an opposition politician as prime minister is also to be established. This has sparked optimism that the political crisis might be peacefully resolved – but critics doubt that Kabila will honour this deal. Meanwhile, North Kivu and Kasai are sites of growing violence and there are reports of growing discontent within the army over pay and conditions.

In Burundi, which has been in turmoil since 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully engineered a third term in office for himself, the security and political situation is if anything even more dire. Political repression is intense and violence continues. The UN and African Union have been unable to have much impact on the crisis to date. Burundi accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting armed insurgents and has announced its departure from the International Criminal Court.

 Notwithstanding periodic criticism that it interferes in the internal politics of some of its neighbours, Rwanda continues to be viewed by the international community as a stable and economically successful developing country. Opponents argue that President Paul Kagame has created an authoritarian political culture that could be storing up trouble for the future. Kagame held a referendum in 2015 to change the constitution to allow him to stand again for the presidency in 2017.

In marked contrast to its neighbours, Tanzania has avoided large-scale political instability and violence in recent decades. But it currently hosts well over 100,000 Burundian refugees and Zanzibar remains a source of political tensions. Elections there in October 2015 were annulled by the electoral authorities. The opposition boycotted the re-run in March 2016. The annulment was criticised by the international community but little punishment has followed. Calls for another government of national unity on the Isles have been resisted by the ruling party. More broadly, new President John Magufuli has focused on anti-corruption efforts since taking office and is still enjoying healthy levels of public support.

Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-0004

Authors: Aleksandra Gorb; Jon Lunn

Topic: Africa

Share this page

Stay up to date

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.