Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo must observe restraint in their handling of rival protests in the capital Kinshasa on 29 and 31 July, said Amnesty International today.
The ruling coalition – Majorité Présidentielle – has called a rally in support of proposed talks on the electoral process, two days before the opposition coalition – Rassemblement des Forces du Changement – holds a rally demanding that the polls are held on schedule in November, as required by the Constitution.
“The authorities must facilitate the right to peaceful assembly for all, including opposition supporters protesting election delays that they regard as a tactic to prolong President Joseph Kabila’s stay in power,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Police and other security forces must refrain from using force against peaceful protesters.”
On 27 July, two people were injured and seven others arrested as police used violence to disperse an opposition gathering in Lubumbashi and Tshikapa, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office in DRC.
Restrictions on opposition parties and civil society groups have intensified as the supposed election month draws closer, a worrying trend that must stopMuthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
In January 2015, dozens were killed in the capital and in the eastern city of Goma as security forces broke up protests against a draft law. Government opponents said the draft law would have enabled President Kabila to remain in power beyond his second term.
“Restrictions on opposition parties and civil society groups have intensified as the supposed election month draws closer, a worrying trend that must stop,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.
On 13 May, police used tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered outside a courtroom in the second city of Lubumbashi to support of presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi, after he was accused of hiring foreign mercenaries. He has since left the country for medical treatment and has expressed fears for his safety if he returns to DRC.
With barely six months left to the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second term in December, no election date has been named.
The Constitutional Court ruled in May that Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, can remain in office as caretaker President after December if the elections are delayed.