DRC: 42 already dead in protests against the proposed electoral law

Press release
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Kinshasa, Paris, le 21 January 2015 – The My Vote Must Count Coalition launched by FIDH strongly condemns the bloody repression of peaceful demonstrations against the adoption of the electoral law that has already caused 42 deaths in Kinshasa and the wounding of a large number of people in other major cities across the country. Since the proposed electoral law is supposed to be put to the vote in the Senate next Thursday, the Coalition of close to 100 African and international civil society organisations urge the Congolese authorities to stop the excessive use of force against the protesters, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the serious human rights violations committed during the last few days, and to withdraw the draft electoral law that looks like a political positioning in view of the forthcoming presidential election scheduled in 2016.

« The security forces, unfortunately as often happens in DRC, again over-reacted using disproportionate force by firing live bullets into the crowd, thereby killing 42 people and wounding dozens more. The authorities should put a stop to this repression immediately, identify the criminals and send them to court » according to our organisations. « Thursday, the day that the Senate is supposed to vote on the law, will be a day of great danger if the authorities stubbornly continue this repression  », they added.

Since Monday 19 January, the demonstrations against the adoption of the draft law to amend the electoral law have degenerated into confrontations especially in Kinshasa. The Congolese riot police have been shooting live ammunition at the protestors. The district around the National Assembly is completely sealed off by hundreds of policemen and soldiers, especially the Presidential Guard, in order to prevent the demonstrators from reaching Parliament. As for the protestors, they have set up barricades in several residential neighbourhoods of the city; some areas are being looted, with stores being ransacked, especially those from Chinese owners, who are considered to support the current regime. Up to now, and according to the information collected by our organisations, 42 people have been killed, dozens have been wounded and several people have been arrested.

The Congolese authorities apparently want to silence the contestation using any means possible. Since the evening of 19 January, internet and text messages have been blocked, and Radio France Internationale (RFI) cannot be heard since 21 January. Opposition members have been arrested, e.g. Jean-Claude Muyambo, President of SCOD, a political party which used to belong to the presidential majority and recently joined the opposition. He was arrested on the morning of 20 January in Kinshasa, while two representatives of UDPS and UNC, the main opposition parties were arrested in Goma. In the afternoon of 21 January, the police prevented a group of political dissidents from visiting the wounded persons in Mama Yemo Hospital, the general hospital of Kinshasa. This led to violent confrontation and the intervention of the Presidential Guard, who shot and wounded three people.

Our organisations said that:«  the Congolese authorities can no longer ignore the will of the Congolese people; the people want the next legislative and presidential elections to be organised with complete respect for the Constitution and the Congolese State’s regional and international commitments. President Kabila should withdraw his draft legislation and guarantee the organisation of regular, free and transparent elections  ».

On 5 January 2015, the government introduced a bill to amend the electoral law. The bill provides that the electoral list “should be updated with due attention to the changes in demographics and the identity of the population”, thereby making a population census a prerequisite for all the upcoming legislative and presidential elections. In a country that is 2.5 million square kilometres in size, has a population of over 77 million, and plagued by violence and instability, it would take at least four years to conduct a census of that kind, which would mean postponing the presidential election for that long a time. Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 and, theoretically, cannot run again.

When the Parliament first started examining the bill, the opposition parties and civil society expressed fear and disagreement repeatedly. Opposition parties tried to organise a rally and boycott the Parliamentary sessions. Following the underhandedly adoption of the bill by the National Assembly on 17 January, the opposition parties have spoken of a “constitutional coup d’État” and have urged the people to demonstrate massively beginning Monday 19 January when the Senate was supposed to study the bill.

“My Vote Must Count”
52 elections are scheduled to be held in Africa between 2014 and 2016, including 25 presidential elections To avoid manipulations, fraud and violence resulting from truncated elections, at the initiative of FIDH, over 100 African and international civil society organisations have decided to mobilise within the “My Vote Must Count” Coalition. The Coalition, through public rallies, actions on the ground and political advocacy before each election until 2017, is demanding that political leaders respect the legitimate rights of the people to freely choose their representatives through regular, free and transparent elections.

Colalition’s members in DRC :

  • Anges du ciel
  • ACAJ – Association congolaise pour l’accès à la justice
  • ANMDH – Les amis de Nelson Mandela pour la défense des droits humains
  • ASADHO – Association africaine des droits de l’Homme
  • CDH – Comité pour les droits de l’Homme
  • GL – Groupe Lotus
  • LE – Ligue des Électeurs
  • LICOF – Ligue contre la corruption et la fraude
  • OCDH – Observatoire congolais des droits de l’Homme
  • OSD – Œuvres sociales pour le développement
  • Toges noires
  • VSV – Voix des sans voix
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