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'Chilling' crackdown on dissent amid election delays in DRC

15 September 2016, 13:18

Kinshasa - Human rights organisation Amnesty International has released a new report detailing a systematic crackdown on opponents of Congolese President Joseph Kabila, in an attempt to keep the statesman in power.

The report, titled  'Dismantling dissent: DRC's repression of expression amidst electoral delays', noted how the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo was abusing state institutions to prevent critics opposed to a prolongation of Kabila's term in office.

"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.

She said the harassment against activists was against the country's constitution.    

"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."

Wave of repression

Amid the interruption of indoor meetings held by opposition parties, authorities in three different areas had also imposed bans on demonstrations, with opposition members being barred from protest while demonstrations in support of the ruling coalition had been allowed to take place freely.

"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," Jackson stated.

Many leaders who have been vocal about their disagreement with the ruling coalition have faced harsh retaliation, with Moise Katumbi, a prominent politician, having been charged with hiring mercenaries shortly after he announced his intention to run for president in the upcoming election. He continues to live in exile.

Martin Fayulu, who remained vocal about his disagreement with Kabila's attempt to stay in power, was arrested in February 2016 as he was mobilising a group of citizens in the state capital, Kinshasa, to take part in a protest opposing electoral delays. Although he was released, his car, campaign materials and personal belongings remain confiscated.

"The international community, including DRC’s regional partners, 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," Sarah Jackson appealed.

- News24


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