President Kabila must put an end to the repression and respect the constitution

Press release
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(Kinshasa, Paris) President Kabila must put an end to the increasing restrictions of freedoms and announce that he will fully respect the Constitution to keep the country from lapsing into chaos and violence. This is what FIDH, the Ligue des électeurs, the Groupe Lotus, ASADHO, Filimbi, the Lucha and other members of the #MyVoteMustCount coalition, had to say ahead of the 19 December deadline. Our organisations also call on the authorities to release political prisoners, authorize public protests, organize presidential elections without any further delay and guarantee that President Kabila does not run for a third and unconstitutional mandate.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo is reaching a long-dreaded critical moment: 19 December is the last day that President Kabila will legally serve as president of DRC. The time has come for him to relinquish power, as required by the Constitution, by holding a presidential election as soon as possible."

Me Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice President

Since 13 December negotiations have been underway between the presidential majority and the main opposition leaders, under the auspices of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). It should lead to a new agreement on the organisation of presidential elections and the role of President Kabila after 19 December. Our organisations urge the participants to the dialogue to do their utmost to ensure that the above-mentioned measures are implemented and thus avoid having the situation degenerate on 19 December and thereafter.

On 12 December, the European Union (EU) adopted targeted sanctions against seven senior officials of the army, the police, and the Congolese administration who were responsible for serious violations of human rights committed during the demonstrations of 19 September 2016. The U.S. Government sanctioned the Minister of the Interior, Evariste Boshab, and the head of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), Kalev Mutond, accused of “undermining the democratic process”. Pronouncing these sanctions just one week before the end of President Kabila’s last term of office sends a strong message: the authorities must respect the basic freedoms and the principles of democratic change of government guaranteed by the Constitution or else suffer the consequences.

Since the month of November, the political opposition, the civil society, and the Congolese media have been increasingly under attack. Several dozen human rights defenders, activists in the citizens’ movements, journalists, and members of opposition parties have been attacked and arbitrarily arrested, and detained by the Congolese security services. Several gatherings and demonstrations by the civil society and the opposition have been cancelled or prevented, often with violence. The signals of at least six radio and television stations have been temporarily cut off or scrambled, especially the stations that are most listened to (Radio France Internationale and Radio Okapi, the UN radio station).

“We demonstrate peacefully and are punished because of our commitment to democracy. The repression by the authorities adds to public frustration and causes more trouble and more human rights violations. The State must stop this repression immediately and make sure that all Congolese can express themselves freely and exercise their legal rights to choose their leaders."

Floribert Anzuluni, coordinator of the Filimbi citizens’ movement

The fact that several political and civil society leaders have called for demonstrations suggests that massive numbers of people might take to the streets in the big cities of DRC. The DRC authorities must immediately cancel the ban on public protests that has been in force since 22 September in Kinshasa, ensure the supervision of demonstrations take place with due respect for human rights, and avoid all disproportionate or excessive use of force that would cause another blood bath.

To avoid more deadly violence, the international community and more specifically the African Union must send an unambiguous message to the Congolese authorities that State agents and the persons responsible for human rights violations will be sanctioned and prosecuted before the courts. In that sense the International Criminal Court (ICC) should continue to closely monitor the situation. The Office of the Prosecutor should again – as it did in its 23 September statement and during its October 2016 mission in DRC - publicly warn Congolese leaders that those responsible for crimes falling under its jurisdiction may be subject to investigation, prosecution and ultimate sentencing by the Court.

"The United Nations, European Union and influential diplomats should strive to defuse the situation, especially by doing their utmost to obtain the release of detained human rights defenders and citizen movement activists, journalists and political opponents."

Paul Nsapu, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General

The international community should also prevent the eventual clashes and be ready to respond. The United Nations should ensure that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) fulfil the two priorities of its mandate, as renewed by Resolution 2277 on 30 March 2016: increase protection of civilians and “contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and timely elections”. This preparation includes better deployment of observers, and of the intervention brigade throughout the entire territory, especially where a large number of people are expected to turn out [1] - namely in the west- , in order to protect civilians in an effective and prompt manner.

"After more than 15 years of UN presence in the DRC, the UN has the duty to intensify its efforts to spare civilians from again undergoing the violations and crimes which afflicted the elections in the past."

Jean-Claude Katende, ASADHO President

The EU should also be ready to trigger the consultation procedure set out in Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement [2] if the Congolese authorities use excessive force on 19 December. Should this occur, the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (OIF) should apply the sanctions stated in the Bamako Declaration on the practices of democracy, rights and freedoms in the Francophone region, signed and adopted by the Congolese State.

Last 19 September, the brutal repression of the demonstrations led to more than fifty deaths in two days, dozens injured, and hundreds of people being arbitrarily arrested and detained. Since then, the repression of those opposed to changes in election dates and to a third mandate for President Kabila has only increased. And this, in spite of the agreement signed on 18 October, as part of a national dialogue, by the presidential majority and an opposition minority fringe group which led to a new government being formed with the leader of the opposition, Sami Badibanga as its head. The fact that the political agreement ratifies the postponement of the presidential election to April 2018, has led to outcries from civil society and opposition party leaders who boycotted the dialogue.

Between 2015 and 2018, 61 elections, including 30 presidential elections were scheduled to be held in 32 African countries. To prevent manipulation, fraud and violence associated with rigged elections, FIDH brings together some one-hundred African and international civil society organizations and citizen movements in the Coalition #MyVoteMustCount. Together, we demand that country leaders respect the legitimate right of people to freely choose who will represent them in free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.

To that end, 30 civil society organizations and citizens’ movements met in Dakar on 18 and 19 July 2016 at the invitation of FIDH and the conference of OIF’s INGO to discuss the electoral processes in Africa. They adopted a road map to achieve change through elections, and renewed their commitment to the #MyVoteMustCount campaign as an international mobilisation tool.
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