DRC: Kabila’s decision not to run must be followed by concrete human rights steps
Responding to the news that Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila will not be a candidate in the 23 December election, Jean-Mobert Senga, Amnesty International’s Researcher for the DRC, said:
“Today’s announcement that President Kabila will not run for a third term will be welcome news to many Congolese, but more needs to be done. His government must show real commitment to ensuring an environment where people can freely exercise their human rights throughout the election cycle, by formally lifting the ban on peaceful demonstrations. It must also end the suppression of peaceful demonstrations and opposition and civil society meetings.
Today’s announcement that President Kabila will not run for a third term will be welcome news to many Congolese, but more needs to be done. His government must show real commitment to ensuring an environment where people can freely exercise their human rights throughout the election cycle, by formally lifting the ban on peaceful demonstrations.
“The authorities must also release all individuals still being detained solely for exercising their human rights, besides ensuring media freedom, putting an end to Internet shutdowns and withdrawing draft laws designed to repress human rights defenders that are currently under debate in parliament.
“They must also take concrete steps to hold to account suspected perpetrators of human rights violations, including senior officers in the military, the police and the intelligence agencies.”
Information Minister Lambert Mende today announced that Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister, will be the ruling party’s candidate.
The elections should have taken place in November 2016 when incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s second and last term ended in line with the country’s constitution. The government’s failure to hold the elections on time led to countrywide protests that were met with heavy-handed repression from security forces.
The Catholic Church brokered a deal between the ruling coalition and the main opposition leaders - signed on 31 December 2016 - that gave the government one year to put in place measures for a free and fair election, including the reopening of media houses critical of the government, the release of individuals detained for politically-motivated reasons, and the return of exiled opposition leaders.
Failure to put in place these measures and hold the election in December 2017 provoked the Catholic Lay Coordination Committee to mobilize and lead a series of protests on 31 December 2017, 21 January 2018 and 25 February 2018. These peaceful protests were ruthlessly dispersed by the security forces, killing at least 17 people and left some 200 injured, and at least 405 in arbitrary detention.
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