UN accuses Congo of killing, abusing protesters

Congo | Political instability has led to a culture of impunity in the country
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 3/02/17, 10:24 am

Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo used excessive force against political protesters, leading to the deaths of at least 40 people, the United Nations human rights agency said.

The report, released Wednesday, revealed the government deployed soldiers and military police to control protesting crowds in December. Hundreds of civilians had come out to protest Congo’s President Joseph Kabila’s move to stay in office beyond his term limit. The responding officials had no training in handling demonstrations and abused their power, the report said.

Some 40 people, including women and children, died during the protests across the country. The report said state agents injured at least 147 people and arrested another 917 others.

“Such serious incidents are worrisome, particularly in the current context,” said Maman Sambo Sidikou, the UN special representative in Congo.

Kabila, who assumed office in 2001, rejected his constitutional mandate to step down in December. Kabila’s plan to remain in power until the next presidential election sparked mass protests across the country. The international community had warned that the move would result in widespread political violence.

Congo’s Catholic bishops in late December led mediation talks between the country’s political parties, where they agreed to hold elections at the end of this year. Kabila would not contest in the elections, according to the deal. But the deal alone does not guarantee peace, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani said.

“It’s one thing to have a political compromise, but putting it into place is another,” Tapa said, following the mediation.

The UN said past human rights violations continue to encourage a culture of impunity and called on the government to begin to prosecute the guilty.

“Measures should be taken at all levels to ensure that the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms by the population will not lead to loss of lives and other serious rights violations,” UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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