UN voices concern over 'wave of arrests’ in DR Congo

Tuesday December 20 2016

People gather to protest in the neighbourhood of Yolo in Kinshasa, the DR Congo capital on December 20, 2016. AFP PHOTO

The United Nations voiced alarm on Tuesday over a wave of arrests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where tensions were running high after President Joseph Kabila’s term in office expired.

Maman Sambo Sidikou, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo, said it had documented 113 arrests of opposition leaders and civil society activists, human rights campaigners and journalists by state police or intelligence officials since December 16.

“I am gravely concerned by the arrests of those who seek to express their political views,” said Sidikou, who is also the UN secretary general’s special representative to the country.

“I urge the national authorities to strictly adhere to their international human rights obligations, to create a climate of political tolerance and respect at this important juncture in the DRC’s history, and to grant full access to United Nations personnel to all detention centres.”

His call comes amid fears of fresh violence after the end of Kabila’s second and final mandate, with no sign he was ready to leave or hold new elections.

Appeal for calm


Meanwhile, new Congolese prime minister Samy Badibanga on Tuesday urged people to stay "calm" and security forces "to show discipline and restraint" as violence erupted after his controversial appointment.

"I want to issue an appeal for calm," he said at a media conference where he also called for restraint by security forces as violence broke out due to President Joseph Kabila's decision to name a new government instead of stepping down as his mandate ended.

With fears of fresh violence high in the vast and unstable nation, shots rang out in the capital Kinshasa and there was sustained gunfire in the country's second city of Lubumbashi.

Tension had been mounting for months as the December deadline approached for the end of Kabila's term in office.

Badibanga promised to improve the situation of young people, who make up a significant portion of the anti-government protests. He also pledged to work to "address the challenges during this period, which will lead to up to elections."

Kabila appointed Badibanga prime minister on November 17 after cutting a deal with fringe parties in a "national dialogue" condemned by the main opposition coalition as a sham.

Since September, the Roman Catholic Church has sought to mediate a political transition to elections, but talks stalled and Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda said on December 6 that no elections would be held until April 2018.