DR Congo – Protest Crackdown

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A number of civilians are killed during protests against the failure of the President to schedule elections.

There has been growing local and international pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down in December this year at the end of his second term, the constitutionally defined limit to rule. Protestors have taken to the streets of the capital Kinshasa in dismay over his apparent aim to extend his hold on power and failure to schedule elections.

According to Georges Kapiamba, Director of the local NGO, Congolese Association for Access to Justice, the protests also took place in Goma, Bukavu and Beni regions. According to a Deutschewelle correspondent, the offices of President Kabila’s party as well as offices of other political parties allied to the president were burnt down.

European nations and the United States (US) have considered imposing sanctions, with a senior member of the US State Department stating that sanctions would be considered against any individual who worked to undermine the democratic institutions and elections process.

Phil Clark, a political scientist at SOAS University of London, commented that “It is looking increasingly unlikely that a new leader will take control of the Democratic Republic of Congo…all of Kabila’s moves over the past few months have suggested that he is doing everything he can to remain in power…there is a real concern in the Congo that this situation could continue to get drastically out of hand.”

Kabila took power in the DR Congo in 2001 after his father, Laurent Kabila, was killed by one of his bodyguards. The country has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since the Belgian colonial handover in 1960, reported Deutschewelle.

031106-D-2987S-019 President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo meets with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon on Nov. 6, 2003. The two leaders are meeting to discuss defense issues of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

President Joseph Kabila – CC

Amnesty International has released a report titled ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays‘, documenting the lengths that President Kabila is going to to keep himself in power.

“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 organisations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for east Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement.

“The DR Congo 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,” Jackson stated, reported News24Wire.

Similarly Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released evidence documenting the crackdown on activists over the last two years. Government repression spiked in the days leading up to planned protests on September 19th. On September 16th, police in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi fired teargas and live bullets to disperse opposition party members.

On September 17th, security services arrested human rights activist, Patrick Pindu, after he participated in a civil society meeting. He was released the next day on the condition that he report to the intelligence agency every 15 days. At least 14 civilians and three police officers have been killed in the protests in recent days.

Rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate rights abuses and for international powers to impose sanctions. According to local sources, much of the repression is being orchestrated by the Intelligence Agency Director, Kalev Mutond.

Many view the government’s efforts at ‘national dialogue’ as a ploy to delay elections and prolong Kabila’s stay in power, and most of the main opposition parties have not participated in the process, reported CAJNews.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Opposition Rally
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.8, Pp.21105C–21107A

DR CONGO: Increased Magnitude of Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp.21109B–21110B

DR CONGO: National Dialogue Group
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21066B–21067A

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