The Democratic Republic of Congo government has made new arrests of pro-democracy activists during November 2018 ahead of presidential elections scheduled for December 23, Human Rights Watch said this week.
Congolese authorities should immediately halt the crackdown and, with the support of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, investigate and hold to account those responsible for arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, and other ill-treatment.
In November, police arrested without basis the journalist Peter Tiani and 17 pro-democracy youth activists in the capital, Kinshasa. Many were beaten during arrest and detention. In the eastern city of Goma, unidentified assailants abducted and tortured a youth activist, Tresor Kambere, for three days before releasing him.
Goma police arrested four other youth activists during a small peaceful demonstration demanding Kambere’s release. The activists arrested in November have been released, but Tiani remains detained.
“Congolese authorities are undermining the electoral process by arresting and mistreating activists, journalists, and other dissidents for peacefully expressing their views or simply doing their jobs,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“With long-awaited elections just over a month away, it’s crucial for all Congolese to be able to freely exercise their basic civil liberties.”
Dozens of other pro-democracy activists and political opposition leaders and supporters who were arbitrarily arrested previously for their peaceful activities.
This includes seven activists from the Les Congolais Debout citizens’ movement, whom intelligence services in Kinshasa have held unlawfully and without charge since September 11, and four activists from the Filimbi youth movement, who have been detained since December 30, 2017.
On November 1, police arrested 16 activists, including three young women, from the Vigilence Citoyenne (VICI) citizens’ movement as they instructed people about civic rights and duties at a public market in Kinshasa.
Police beat and arrested another VICI activist, Benjamin Kabemba, when he visited the others at the Kasavubu police station. The authorities transferred them to Kinshasa’s central prison on November 8, where they were charged with incitement to civil disobedience and were provisionally released on November 18.
Gloria Senga, a VICI coordinator, told Human Rights Watch that the police beat Kabemba at the Kasavubu station.