DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Chilling crackdown on dissent amidst election delays

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20 Sep 2016
[International Secretariat]

The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have overseen a systematic crackdown on opponents of President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to stay in power beyond the constitutionally mandated second term, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report, ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays’ Amnesty International says the DRC government is using state institutions to prevent people who oppose a prolongation of President Kabila’s term in office to organize and express themselves.

“The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organizations.

“This campaign of harassment and intimidation against dissident voices flies in the face of the DRC’s own constitution, as well as its international commitments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

Local authorities in three different places have imposed blanket bans on demonstrations, and have even broken up indoor meetings of political opposition parties. Numerous opposition protests have been declared unauthorised.

Political leaders who left the ruling coalition in disagreement over term limits have faced reprisals.
Moise Katumbi, a prominent businessman and politician, was targeted by the authorities soon after he declared his intention to stand in the forthcoming election. He was subsequently charged with hiring mercenaries and selling a house that did not belong to him. He left the country for medical treatment, and was sentenced in absentia in June 2016 to three years in jail and a US$1 million fine. He continues to live in exile.

“The DRC government is riding roughshod over its regional and international human rights obligations. Denying people the right to freedom of expression could trigger violence in an already tense political climate,” said Sarah Jackson.

“The international community must encourage the DRC authorities to bring this wave of repression to a speedy end, unconditionally release all individuals detained for political reasons and drop the charges against them.”

With barely three months left of President Kabila’s second term, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has yet to call the elections. Its chairman has said the elections cannot be held on time because of technical difficulties.

A national dialogue initiated by President Kabila started early September. However, the majority of opposition political parties declined to participate and have accused the AU-appointed facilitator of lacking independence.

14 September 2016

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