Democratic Republic of Congo: Police must not use lethal force in peaceful protests
Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo must observe restraint in their handling of protests taking place in the capital Kinshasa this weekend, said Amnesty International today.
The ruling coalition – Majorité Présidentielle – has called a rally for today (29 July) in support of proposed talks on the electoral process, two days before the opposition coalition – Rassemblement des Forces du Changement – will hold an event (31 July) demanding that the elections are held on schedule in November, as required.
With barely six months left to the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second and last term in December, no election date has been named. In May the Congolese Constitutional Court ruled that Mr Kabila can remain in office as caretaker president after December, if the elections are delayed.
Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Muthoni Wanyeki said:
“The authorities must facilitate the right to peaceful assembly for all, including opposition supporters protesting election delays that they regard as a tactic to prolong President Joseph Kabila’s stay in power.
“Police and other security forces must refrain from using force against peaceful protesters.
“Restrictions on opposition parties and civil society groups have intensified as the supposed election month draws closer, a worrying trend that must stop."
Violence at previous protests
On Wednesday this week (27 July), two people were injured and seven others arrested as police used violence to disperse an opposition gathering in the second city of Lubumbashi and the city of Tshikapa, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office in the country.
Meanwhile on 13 May, police used tear gas to disperse protesters who had gathered outside a courtroom in Lubumbashi to support presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi, after he was accused of hiring foreign mercenaries. He has since left the country for medical treatment and has expressed fears for his safety if he returns to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In January 2015, dozens were killed in the capital and in the eastern city of Goma as security forces broke up protests against a draft law. Government opponents said the draft law would have enabled President Kabila to remain in power beyond his second term.