Saturday, 30 January 2016

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office UN flgs'dramatic rise' in abuses

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office as UN flags 'dramatic rise' in rights abuses


Investors on edge as a chart prepared by the elections commission shows it would be impossible to hold a presidential ballot this year.



A timetable prepared by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission makes it impossible for the country to hold a presidential election scheduled for this year.

This came as the United Nations warned Wednesday of a sharp rise in rights abuses, holding government officials responsible for half of them as political tensions rise ahead of the uncertainty of the elections.

In the chart prepared January 14, the National Independent Electoral Commission, or CENI, shows it would take more than 13 months to partially revise the voter register in order for the election to take place.

A full revision would take 16 months and cost as much as $290 million, according to the schedule.

The timetable was published on the Twitter account of Michael Tshibangu, a UK-based lawyer who heads the Association for Development and Democracy in Congo. 

The chart has been circulated to ambassadors in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, over the past two weeks, said a diplomat who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorised to speak to the media. 

CENI didn’t respond to two e-mails and two phone calls requesting comment on the schedule.

‘Designed to Fail’

Congo, the world’s largest source of cobalt, had been preparing to hold six elections over 13 months culminating in the vote for a new president in November. Votes to elect new governors and provincial assemblies in October were delayed and other election preparations have been slow. 

Opposition groups say the election programme is designed to fail and allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidency beyond a second term, which the constitution stipulates should be his final one.

Protests over this in January last year saw at least 40 people killed and the government drop a census plan that was perceived as meant to aid Kabila stay on in office.

jose Maria Aranaz, the UN’s rights chief in DR Congo, told a press conference his office had “reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations” in 2015, a 64% increase in cases compared to 2014.

“In total, we have registered 3,847 violations of human rights violations in the territory,” he said as he presented his annual report.

The UN believes government officials committed 49% of the reported violations, which included 294 extrajudicial killings.Aranaz’s office said 260 of the cases were linked to DR Congo’s fraught electoral process, which has seen political tensions soar.

Kabila won disputed 2006 and 2011 elections and has not said if he will step down, helping fuel the tension.

Risks destabilising

Delaying the elections risks destabilising a country where mining companies including Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan Inc. and Johannesburg- based AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. operate, according to analysts including Christoph Wille at Control Risks in London.

Congo’s voter register, which was last updated before the presidential vote in December 2011, shows that 82% of Congo’s eligible voters, or 30.7 million people, are registered, according to a November report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, commissioned by CENI. 

About 7 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 22 need to be enrolled and as many as 1.6 million deceased and 300,000 duplicate voters need to be removed, it said. Congo’s 2016 budget includes 537.8 billion francs ($58 million) for the organisation of elections this year. 

Partners including the United Nations and the European Union have said they are ready to support the voter registration process. 

(Bloomberg, AFP)

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office as UN flags 'dramatic rise' in rights abuses

UPDATE: New Congo timetable extends Kabila's time in office as UN flags 'dramatic rise' in rights abuses


Investors on edge as a chart prepared by the elections commission shows it would be impossible to hold a presidential ballot this year.



A timetable prepared by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission makes it impossible for the country to hold a presidential election scheduled for this year.

This came as the United Nations warned Wednesday of a sharp rise in rights abuses, holding government officials responsible for half of them as political tensions rise ahead of the uncertainty of the elections.

In the chart prepared January 14, the National Independent Electoral Commission, or CENI, shows it would take more than 13 months to partially revise the voter register in order for the election to take place.

A full revision would take 16 months and cost as much as $290 million, according to the schedule.

The timetable was published on the Twitter account of Michael Tshibangu, a UK-based lawyer who heads the Association for Development and Democracy in Congo. 

The chart has been circulated to ambassadors in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, over the past two weeks, said a diplomat who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorised to speak to the media. 

CENI didn’t respond to two e-mails and two phone calls requesting comment on the schedule.

‘Designed to Fail’

Congo, the world’s largest source of cobalt, had been preparing to hold six elections over 13 months culminating in the vote for a new president in November. Votes to elect new governors and provincial assemblies in October were delayed and other election preparations have been slow. 

Opposition groups say the election programme is designed to fail and allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidency beyond a second term, which the constitution stipulates should be his final one.

Protests over this in January last year saw at least 40 people killed and the government drop a census plan that was perceived as meant to aid Kabila stay on in office.

jose Maria Aranaz, the UN’s rights chief in DR Congo, told a press conference his office had “reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations” in 2015, a 64% increase in cases compared to 2014.

“In total, we have registered 3,847 violations of human rights violations in the territory,” he said as he presented his annual report.

The UN believes government officials committed 49% of the reported violations, which included 294 extrajudicial killings.Aranaz’s office said 260 of the cases were linked to DR Congo’s fraught electoral process, which has seen political tensions soar.

Kabila won disputed 2006 and 2011 elections and has not said if he will step down, helping fuel the tension.

Risks destabilising

Delaying the elections risks destabilising a country where mining companies including Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan Inc. and Johannesburg- based AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. operate, according to analysts including Christoph Wille at Control Risks in London.

Congo’s voter register, which was last updated before the presidential vote in December 2011, shows that 82% of Congo’s eligible voters, or 30.7 million people, are registered, according to a November report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, commissioned by CENI. 

About 7 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 22 need to be enrolled and as many as 1.6 million deceased and 300,000 duplicate voters need to be removed, it said. Congo’s 2016 budget includes 537.8 billion francs ($58 million) for the organisation of elections this year. 

Partners including the United Nations and the European Union have said they are ready to support the voter registration process. 

(Bloomberg, AFP)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

How to Reform the Democratic Republic of Congo

How to Reform the Democratic Republic of Congo

25/01/2016

People stand in Limete, part of Kinshasa on Dec. 9, 2015
  after an overflow of the river N'djili near the river mouth of
Matete. Torrential rains and flooding have left 31 people
 dead and 20,000 families homeless in less than three
 weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital,
 Kinshasa, city authorities said.
 
 Every return visit to my native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, brings fresh surprises—almost never the good kind. This is especially true outside the relative comfort of upper-class Gombe district in Kinshasa, the capital, and above all in rural areas, where most of the country’s almost 80 million people live.
 
While vacationing in Mbuji Mayi in the Eastern Kasai province in 2012, I spent three days in a guest house owned by the Miba government-run diamond company. Built in the 1930s, it lacked running water for bathing, cooking or sanitation. Instead, small children delivered buckets of water for 50 francs each—missing school so they could bring home the equivalent of about 40 cents at the end of the day.
 

I urged both the provincial governor and the country’s president to urgently rehabilitate nearby Tshala Dam, also built in the 1930s, to provide water and electricity for the province’s 7 million people. This would have cost about $53 million. Returning three years later, however, I found the situation unchanged: Money that could have done the job had been channeled instead into building a new soccer stadium for the local team.
 
Decades after independence from Belgium, this vast, diverse and young country—blessed with abundant natural resources that have drawn migrants, and a few investors, from around the world—remains mired in violence, poverty, plunder and despair. Civil wars since 1996 have resulted in some six million deaths and destroyed the country’s decades-old economic infrastructure and industrial base. In the eyes of its own people and those of the world, DRC represents a tragic failure of governance. Despite possessing one of the planet’s richest troves of natural resources, government cannot meet the basic needs of the governed.
 
Unemployment stands at a staggering 80%. Conflict, insecurity, sexual and gender-based violence, and graft are epidemic. The State Department’s most recent annual report on human rights around the world described corruption in the DRC as “endemic,” noting that officials often act with impunity and rights abuses remain widespread—particularly among women, children and other vulnerable groups. The DRC consistently ranks among last in the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Index. And with a per capita GDP of $394 in 2015 and average life expectancy of about 50, it is also arguably the poorest country in the world, with 88% of its people living below the $1.25-per-day international poverty line.
 
In June 1998, the newly introduced Congolese franc traded at 72 cents on the U.S. dollar. Today, it is essentially worthless. As the result, 95% of the economy is conducted in U.S. dollars, leaving the central bank unable to collect seigniorage revenues or conceive and implement independent, credible monetary policy.
 
Health and education indices rank among the world’s lowest, while only about 10% of the population, mainly city-dwellers, enjoy reasonable access to either electricity or potable water. Within families, children are often forced to take turns eating. Basic infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports, rail and air transport, and sanitation, along with essential services such as education, are woefully inadequate.
 
Reserves of minerals and precious metals are worth some $24 trillion, according to World Bank Group estimates, but remain untapped—while untold thousands of Congolese desperate for a better life try their luck applying for visas to Europe and North America and more still forego such formalities and flee illicitly.
 
Transparency International classifies the DRC as one of the world’s most corrupt kleptocracies. In 2015, a U.N. panel reported more than 140 instances of violence and nearly 650 detentions related to the political process amid widespread speculation that President Joseph Kabila is scheming to remain in office beyond the legal end of his current term in December 2016.
 
The IMF has called for greater transparency and broad improvements in the mining sector to boost government revenue for poverty reduction. A panel of African experts led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki has meanwhile estimated that some 85% of revenue generated from DRC’s natural resources are pocketed off the books, unreported and untaxed, and diverted into private accounts—leaving the country with a paltry $9 billion annual budget.
 
As a DRC native who has worked for 25 years in some 85 countries as an international development economist, mainly in country management and private sector and financial sector development, I believe turning the country around demands no less than an updated version of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt post-war Europe.
 
The 15-year plan I propose for DRC comprises seven pillars of development, with the private sector driving growth and international and diaspora expertise tapped as needed. In its first phase, the program shall aim at advancing human capital, through education, health, and nutrition; creating opportunity and a level playing field for all, including Congolese women, who suffer not only legal discrimination, but one of the world’s highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence; promoting peace, security, rule of law, and democracy by restructuring the army and police and building strong democratic institutions and transparent practices; mobilizing domestic resources through transparent, effective tax collection and anticorruption measures; and supporting a responsible domestic private sector backed by functioning public administration and the rule of law. These initial pillars would lay the foundation for establishing strong institutions that President Barack Obama has often emphasized in his African policy as opposed to dictatorial strongmen who are to blame for the current state of affairs.
 
The second phase of the plan would endeavor to create opportunities for the people by taking on large-scale, labor-intensive infrastructure projects to create jobs as well as desperately needed enablers of trade and growth; boosting and accelerating local industrialization to refine and process minerals and mechanize farming, livestock and fisheries; promoting sustainable forest management; and supporting service sectors including tourism; and finally identifying and tapping domestic and regional market synergies.
 
What will this plan cost? I estimate about $800 billion over 15 years, in domestic resources, bilateral and multilateral aid, and foreign direct investment. It will also require a wholesale rethinking of development strategy and governance, with transparency a top priority. Executed wisely, it could turn one of the world’s poorest economies into a driver of African growth.
 
Economies most often succeed or fail based on the caliber and integrity of political leaders and governance structures. Good governance, rule of law, transparent management of natural resources, and honest, efficient tax collection should allow the state to develop an annual budget of at least $72 billion, lifting GDP per capita to $15,000 in a decade and a half.
 
Proverbial wisdom, repeated recently only in irony, says that “what’s impossible isn’t Congolese.” Bitter experience has taught too many of my compatriots quite the opposite. But we know from recent experience that great progress is possible, even in the poorest, most fragile corners of the world—progress that conveys prosperity and security not only for individual economies but, in this era of fast-moving global threats, for us all.
 
Refining and implementing this new Marshall Plan is where the country’s transformational work should begin to create conditions for a sustainable development beyond the usual cosmetic reforms. This plan will be a big step toward stabilizing and promoting development of one of the most important countries in Africa.
 
By Noel K. Tshiani M
 

How to Reform the Democratic Republic of Congo

How to Reform the Democratic Republic of Congo

25/01/2016
People stand in Limete, part of Kinshasa on Dec. 9, 2015
  after an overflow of the river N'djili near the river mouth of
Matete. Torrential rains and flooding have left 31 people
 dead and 20,000 families homeless in less than three
 weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital,
 Kinshasa, city authorities said.
 
 
Every return visit to my native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, brings fresh surprises—almost never the good kind. This is especially true outside the relative comfort of upper-class Gombe district in Kinshasa, the capital, and above all in rural areas, where most of the country’s almost 80 million people live.
 
While vacationing in Mbuji Mayi in the Eastern Kasai province in 2012, I spent three days in a guest house owned by the Miba government-run diamond company. Built in the 1930s, it lacked running water for bathing, cooking or sanitation. Instead, small children delivered buckets of water for 50 francs each—missing school so they could bring home the equivalent of about 40 cents at the end of the day.
 
I urged both the provincial governor and the country’s president to urgently rehabilitate nearby Tshala Dam, also built in the 1930s, to provide water and electricity for the province’s 7 million people. This would have cost about $53 million. Returning three years later, however, I found the situation unchanged: Money that could have done the job had been channeled instead into building a new soccer stadium for the local team.
 
Decades after independence from Belgium, this vast, diverse and young country—blessed with abundant natural resources that have drawn migrants, and a few investors, from around the world—remains mired in violence, poverty, plunder and despair. Civil wars since 1996 have resulted in some six million deaths and destroyed the country’s decades-old economic infrastructure and industrial base. In the eyes of its own people and those of the world, DRC represents a tragic failure of governance. Despite possessing one of the planet’s richest troves of natural resources, government cannot meet the basic needs of the governed.
 
Unemployment stands at a staggering 80%. Conflict, insecurity, sexual and gender-based violence, and graft are epidemic. The State Department’s most recent annual report on human rights around the world described corruption in the DRC as “endemic,” noting that officials often act with impunity and rights abuses remain widespread—particularly among women, children and other vulnerable groups. The DRC consistently ranks among last in the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Index. And with a per capita GDP of $394 in 2015 and average life expectancy of about 50, it is also arguably the poorest country in the world, with 88% of its people living below the $1.25-per-day international poverty line.
 
In June 1998, the newly introduced Congolese franc traded at 72 cents on the U.S. dollar. Today, it is essentially worthless. As the result, 95% of the economy is conducted in U.S. dollars, leaving the central bank unable to collect seigniorage revenues or conceive and implement independent, credible monetary policy.
 
Health and education indices rank among the world’s lowest, while only about 10% of the population, mainly city-dwellers, enjoy reasonable access to either electricity or potable water. Within families, children are often forced to take turns eating. Basic infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports, rail and air transport, and sanitation, along with essential services such as education, are woefully inadequate.
 
Reserves of minerals and precious metals are worth some $24 trillion, according to World Bank Group estimates, but remain untapped—while untold thousands of Congolese desperate for a better life try their luck applying for visas to Europe and North America and more still forego such formalities and flee illicitly.
 
Transparency International classifies the DRC as one of the world’s most corrupt kleptocracies. In 2015, a U.N. panel reported more than 140 instances of violence and nearly 650 detentions related to the political process amid widespread speculation that President Joseph Kabila is scheming to remain in office beyond the legal end of his current term in December 2016.
 
The IMF has called for greater transparency and broad improvements in the mining sector to boost government revenue for poverty reduction. A panel of African experts led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki has meanwhile estimated that some 85% of revenue generated from DRC’s natural resources are pocketed off the books, unreported and untaxed, and diverted into private accounts—leaving the country with a paltry $9 billion annual budget.
 
As a DRC native who has worked for 25 years in some 85 countries as an international development economist, mainly in country management and private sector and financial sector development, I believe turning the country around demands no less than an updated version of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt post-war Europe.
 
The 15-year plan I propose for DRC comprises seven pillars of development, with the private sector driving growth and international and diaspora expertise tapped as needed. In its first phase, the program shall aim at advancing human capital, through education, health, and nutrition; creating opportunity and a level playing field for all, including Congolese women, who suffer not only legal discrimination, but one of the world’s highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence; promoting peace, security, rule of law, and democracy by restructuring the army and police and building strong democratic institutions and transparent practices; mobilizing domestic resources through transparent, effective tax collection and anticorruption measures; and supporting a responsible domestic private sector backed by functioning public administration and the rule of law. These initial pillars would lay the foundation for establishing strong institutions that President Barack Obama has often emphasized in his African policy as opposed to dictatorial strongmen who are to blame for the current state of affairs.
 
The second phase of the plan would endeavor to create opportunities for the people by taking on large-scale, labor-intensive infrastructure projects to create jobs as well as desperately needed enablers of trade and growth; boosting and accelerating local industrialization to refine and process minerals and mechanize farming, livestock and fisheries; promoting sustainable forest management; and supporting service sectors including tourism; and finally identifying and tapping domestic and regional market synergies.
 
What will this plan cost? I estimate about $800 billion over 15 years, in domestic resources, bilateral and multilateral aid, and foreign direct investment. It will also require a wholesale rethinking of development strategy and governance, with transparency a top priority. Executed wisely, it could turn one of the world’s poorest economies into a driver of African growth.
 
Economies most often succeed or fail based on the caliber and integrity of political leaders and governance structures. Good governance, rule of law, transparent management of natural resources, and honest, efficient tax collection should allow the state to develop an annual budget of at least $72 billion, lifting GDP per capita to $15,000 in a decade and a half.
 
Proverbial wisdom, repeated recently only in irony, says that “what’s impossible isn’t Congolese.” Bitter experience has taught too many of my compatriots quite the opposite. But we know from recent experience that great progress is possible, even in the poorest, most fragile corners of the world—progress that conveys prosperity and security not only for individual economies but, in this era of fast-moving global threats, for us all.
 
Refining and implementing this new Marshall Plan is where the country’s transformational work should begin to create conditions for a sustainable development beyond the usual cosmetic reforms. This plan will be a big step toward stabilizing and promoting development of one of the most important countries in Africa.
 
By Noel K. Tshiani M
 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Wave of kidnappings, violence hampering Congo aid delivery: UN

Wave of kidnappings, violence hampering Congo aid delivery: U.N

23/01/2016

Peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Organization
Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the
 Congo (MONUSCO) stand guard following
 demonstrations in Beni in North Kivu
province, October 23, 2014
 
A spike in kidnappings and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile North Kivu province in recent months has made delivering life-saving humanitarian aid a "Herculean task", the United Nations said on Friday.

Congo's east has been plagued by instability since regional wars between 1996 and 2003 killed millions, most from hunger and disease. Dozens of armed groups continue to prey on the local population and exploit the region's rich mineral deposits.

The latest in a string of foreign-backed insurrections, the M23, was defeated by Congolese and U.N. forces in late 2013 but smaller armed groups and criminal gangs have since proliferated.

"Kidnappings of aid workers and civilians and attacks on convoys have increased, often forcing organizations to delay the delivery of aid and other essential operations or suspend activities entirely," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in statement.

Congo, which ranks 176 out 188 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index, is heavily dependent on aid from non-governmental organisations and U.N. agencies. OCHA estimates that 7.5 million Congolese will require humanitarian assistance this year.

The declaration comes two days after French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced the suspension of its activities in the town of Mweso in North Kivu's Masisi territory. Unidentified assailants attacked one of its convoys and abducted two staff members last month.

The hostages were freed within days but MSF said that its demands for new security assurances from officials in the region were not met. The Mweso facility treated over 176,000 patients in 2015.

At least 175 people were kidnapped for ransom in eastern Congo last year, according to a report last month by New York-based Human Rights Watch. The group said many of the kidnappings appeared to be carried out by former and current members of armed groups, some of whom quit government-run demobilisation camps.

Almost all of the hostages, who included humanitarian workers, U.N. employees and local residents, were released after ransoms were paid, the report added.

 Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Joe Bavier and Catherine Evans

Reuters

 

Wave of kidnappings, violence hampering Congo aid delivery: U.N

Wave of kidnappings, violence hampering Congo aid delivery: U.N

23/01/2016
Peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Organization
Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the
 Congo (MONUSCO) stand guard following
 demonstrations in Beni in North Kivu
province, October 23, 2014
 
A spike in kidnappings and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile North Kivu province in recent months has made delivering life-saving humanitarian aid a "Herculean task", the United Nations said on Friday.

Congo's east has been plagued by instability since regional wars between 1996 and 2003 killed millions, most from hunger and disease. Dozens of armed groups continue to prey on the local population and exploit the region's rich mineral deposits.

The latest in a string of foreign-backed insurrections, the M23, was defeated by Congolese and U.N. forces in late 2013 but smaller armed groups and criminal gangs have since proliferated.

"Kidnappings of aid workers and civilians and attacks on convoys have increased, often forcing organizations to delay the delivery of aid and other essential operations or suspend activities entirely," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in statement.

Congo, which ranks 176 out 188 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index, is heavily dependent on aid from non-governmental organisations and U.N. agencies. OCHA estimates that 7.5 million Congolese will require humanitarian assistance this year.

The declaration comes two days after French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced the suspension of its activities in the town of Mweso in North Kivu's Masisi territory. Unidentified assailants attacked one of its convoys and abducted two staff members last month.

The hostages were freed within days but MSF said that its demands for new security assurances from officials in the region were not met. The Mweso facility treated over 176,000 patients in 2015.

At least 175 people were kidnapped for ransom in eastern Congo last year, according to a report last month by New York-based Human Rights Watch. The group said many of the kidnappings appeared to be carried out by former and current members of armed groups, some of whom quit government-run demobilisation camps.

Almost all of the hostages, who included humanitarian workers, U.N. employees and local residents, were released after ransoms were paid, the report added.
 
Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Joe Bavier and Catherine Evans
Reuters
 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dispatches: Prevent More Bloody Repression in DR Congo

Dispatches: Prevent More Bloody Repression in DR Congo

20/01/2016

Riot police patrol a street in Goma, Democratic Republic
of Congo, during nation-wide protests against a
 proposed change in the law that would delay
 elections, January 19, 2015.


One year ago today, demonstrations began in Kinshasa and other cities across the Democratic Republic of Congo to protest attempts by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power.

When security forces cracked down on demonstrators, peaceful protests turned violent. Over several days the police and Republican Guard soldiers shot dead at least 43 people, wounded dozens, and forcibly disappeared five others.

Security forces hastily took away some of the bodies, leaving families unable to bury loved ones.

This first anniversary is a stark reminder of what could lay ahead should the security forces respond the same way to future protests. Kabila’s constitutional term limit ends on December 19, 2016, but preparations for elections have been deliberately stalled and Kabila has not declared whether he will step down. Authorities loyal to the president have repressed and intimidated the growing coalition of voices calling for respect of the constitution and credible elections.

Just today, police blocked a series of peaceful meetings organized by opposition and civil society leaders throughout Kinshasa, the capital, to commemorate the victims of last year’s demonstrations. With more demonstrations planned in the coming weeks, the government should take urgent steps to ensure that all Congolese are able to peacefully express their views without fear of being arrested or killed by the security forces.

The authorities should arrest those responsible for past abuses and prosecute them in fair, credible trials. They should also curb all unlawful recruitment and mobilization of “youth leagues” to use violence during demonstrations – a tactic seen most recently during a political opposition meeting in Kinshasa on September 15.

Congo’s international partners and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, have a crucial role to play. MONUSCO’s police and military forces should be ready to deploy to strategic locations in Kinshasa and other cities to act as a deterrent to crackdowns and protect peaceful demonstrators when necessary. The European Union, the United States, and the UN should implement targeted sanctions, including travel bans and assets freezes, against those most responsible for the violent repression.

Congo’s donors and the UN have repeatedly called for credible presidential elections and emphasized the importance of a peaceful transition of power, in the interests of promoting democracy, human rights, and stability in Congo.

Now is the time to back up these words with action. 
By Ida Sawyer   
           

 


...

Dispatches: Prevent More Bloody Repression in DR Congo

Dispatches: Prevent More Bloody Repression in DR Congo

20/01/2016
Riot police patrol a street in Goma, Democratic Republic
of Congo, during nation-wide protests against a
 proposed change in the law that would delay
 elections, January 19, 2015.

One year ago today, demonstrations began in Kinshasa and other cities across the Democratic Republic of Congo to protest attempts by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power.

When security forces cracked down on demonstrators, peaceful protests turned violent. Over several days the police and Republican Guard soldiers shot dead at least 43 people, wounded dozens, and forcibly disappeared five others.

Security forces hastily took away some of the bodies, leaving families unable to bury loved ones.

This first anniversary is a stark reminder of what could lay ahead should the security forces respond the same way to future protests. Kabila’s constitutional term limit ends on December 19, 2016, but preparations for elections have been deliberately stalled and Kabila has not declared whether he will step down. Authorities loyal to the president have repressed and intimidated the growing coalition of voices calling for respect of the constitution and credible elections.

Just today, police blocked a series of peaceful meetings organized by opposition and civil society leaders throughout Kinshasa, the capital, to commemorate the victims of last year’s demonstrations. With more demonstrations planned in the coming weeks, the government should take urgent steps to ensure that all Congolese are able to peacefully express their views without fear of being arrested or killed by the security forces.

The authorities should arrest those responsible for past abuses and prosecute them in fair, credible trials. They should also curb all unlawful recruitment and mobilization of “youth leagues” to use violence during demonstrations – a tactic seen most recently during a political opposition meeting in Kinshasa on September 15.

Congo’s international partners and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, have a crucial role to play. MONUSCO’s police and military forces should be ready to deploy to strategic locations in Kinshasa and other cities to act as a deterrent to crackdowns and protect peaceful demonstrators when necessary. The European Union, the United States, and the UN should implement targeted sanctions, including travel bans and assets freezes, against those most responsible for the violent repression.

Congo’s donors and the UN have repeatedly called for credible presidential elections and emphasized the importance of a peaceful transition of power, in the interests of promoting democracy, human rights, and stability in Congo.

Now is the time to back up these words with action. 
By Ida Sawyer