DRC : MONUSCO’s mandate renewal must address the crackdown against civil society ahead of key elections


Ahead of elections scheduled for November 2016, FIDH is extremely concerned about the growing crackdown against civil society and human rights defenders by Government security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

FIDH and its Congolese member organizations call on the Government of DRC to end political repression and ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and right to freedom of expression are respected in the pre-electoral process. The crisis in neighboring Burundi should put the international community on alert about the potential risk of violence in the DRC. Should President Kabila choose to follow the same path as President Nkurunziza by defying constitutional term limits, violence could erupt in DRC on a much larger scale than seen in Burundi.

On 30 March 2016, the UN Security Council will renew the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Last week FIDH organized an interface in New York between a delegation of Congolese human rights defenders and Security Council members to voice concerns about the increasingly alarming situation in the DRC and to provide recommendations on MONUSCO’s mandate renewal, which are contained in an FIDH position paper published today.

Read the position note "The new mandate of MONUSCO must address the crackdown against civil society ahead of key elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)"

The delegation was composed of Paul Nsapu Mukulu, Secretary-General of FIDH and President of the League of Voters; Dismas Kitenge, Vice-President of FIDH and President of the Lotus Group; and Floribert Anzuluni, Head of the pro-democracy Filimbi movement.

It is clear that President Kabila is doing everything he can to delay elections and stay in power beyond his constitutional mandate. Government security forces have been responsible for extra-judicial executions, torture, and arbitrary arrest of hundreds of peaceful protesters and activists opposed to his third term. I myself was recently forced to flee Congo due to threats on my life, said Floribert Anzulini.

Our organizations recommend that the UN Security Council urge Congolese authorities to respect fundamental freedoms during the electoral process and immediately release all political prisoners. The Council should also continue to provide MONUSCO with a strong mandate to protect civilians, especially for vulnerable groups such as human rights defenders, journalists, and political opponents.

In January 2015, members of the Congolese security forces killed at least 42 civilians during peaceful protests organized by those opposed to an electoral law that would allow Kabila to stay in power. Since then, many other activists have been arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. In March 2015, the ANR also arrested some 40 civil society activists and journalists who had gathered in Kinshasa to announce the launch of the Filimbi citizen platform aimed at encouraging youth participation in the electoral and democratic processes in the DRC. Fred Bahuma (Lutte pour le Changement) and Yves Makwambala (Filimbi), who were arrested during that event, remain in detention. Furthermore, on 16 February 2016, at least 45 people were arrested during “ville morte” (dead city) to oppose the government’s attempts to delay elections and to commemorate killings of civilians by Congolese security forces in 1992 during a time of similar electoral upheaval. Six LUCHA activists who participated in the demonstration were arrested and sentenced to six months in prison on trumped up charges of incitement to revolt against authorities.

The international community has invested more than 15 years of UN presence in the DRC and cannot risk to jeopardize the gains that have been achieved. To prevent a new crisis, MONUSCO should monitor the electoral process and reinforce its presence in the west, especially by deploying UN police units to key western cities, such as Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in order to effectively protect civilians during the elections. The UN Security Council should also insist that the Government provide UN human rights monitors with access to prisons throughout the DRC said Dismas Kitenge.

Finally, FIDH urges the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for serious human rights violations in the pre-electoral context. The FIDH delegation met with Egypt, the chair of the DRC Sanctions Committee, and urged them to extend sanctions to political and military leaders who are implicated in the systematic oppression of any voices of dissent.

It is high-time the international community sent a clear message to President Kabila that he must respect the constitution and hold free, fair, and credible elections in November 2016. If we want to avoid the same situation as in Burundi, the UN Security Council should consider imposing sanctions against leaders of the Congolese security forces who have been responsible for extra-judicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders, journalists, and political opponents during the pre-electoral period in the DRC, concluded Paul Nsapu Mukulu.

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