The July 2006 general election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) posed a wide range of challenges to peace in the country. A democratic contest had not been held in DRC since 1965, leaving electoral processes and infrastructure untested, and the sheer number of armed groups that had emerged over the preceding decade posed a major threat to the peaceful conduct and outcome of the elections. The elections themselves were the result of the 2002 Pretoria Agreement, which called for the establishment of a transitional Congolese government for a period of 24 months until an elected administration could be installed in Kinshasa.1 During this period, the international community maintained the Committee in Support of the Transition (Comité International d’Accompagnement de la Transition, CIAT) as a mechanism to support the peace process and the creation of a new Congolese administration. The EU was the main donor and helped to establish five new institutions (including the electoral commission, a media oversight body, and an anti-corruption organisation) in preparation for the general elections in addition to its ongoing efforts to strengthen and professionalise Congolese police and security forces.2 Despite these efforts, the UN Security Council still judged the risk of electoral violence and armed conflict to be severe. As a result, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo, MONUC) was significantly reinforced (from 5,537 personnel to over 16,000) and the EU was asked to send additional support in December 2005.3 After months of deliberations, the EU Council approved another European mission to DRC, the European Union Military Operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (EUFOR RD Congo), to support MONUC during the election process.4 A total of 2,300 European troops (43 percent German, 33 percent French, with smaller contributions from 17 other nations) deployed to DRC prior to the elections.5 These forces were supplemented by 1,700 international and 35,000 Congolese election observers who worked to preserve the integrity of the contest.
The first round of elections proceeded peacefully but failed to provide an outright winner. In the aftermath, allegations of fraud and outbreaks of violence between political constituencies threatened to spark another armed conflict in DRC. In Kinshasa, Congolese troops clashed with armed opposition supporters in a confrontation that required the intervention of MONUC and EUFOR to contain it.6 These efforts were successful, and the final result was announced in November 2006 before being confirmed by the Supreme Court, marking the completion of the first peaceful election in DRC in over four decades.