One hundred and eighty-five civil society organisations from 33 African countries have written an open letter to President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) raising concerns over ongoing attacks on protestors and the targeting of human rights defenders.
Recently, on 19 September 2016, security forces violently dispersed protests by citizens who criticised the failure of the electoral commission - Commission Electorale Nationale Independente (CENI) to meet the deadline for announcing the timeframe for the next elections. The government announced that 17 people, including three police officers were killed during clashes although civil society and political observers argue that the figure is much higher. Several protesters also suffered from gunshot wounds.
Since August 2014, civil society members, the political opposition and ordinary citizens have faced persecution for their criticism of government’s decision to amend the electoral law, postpone elections and in effect extend the mandate of President Kabila when his current term in office expires on 19 December 2016. Notably, from 19-21 January 2015, dozens of protesters were killed and more than 300 arrested when they demonstrated in several cities including Goma and Kinshasa against plans by the government to amend the electoral code. Those who were arrested were accused of fomenting “public disorder.” In November 2015, a blackout was imposed on several radio and television stations.
The electoral commission has recently announced that it will only organise elections in December 2018 because of technical and financial challenges. The 185 organisations are concerned that this decision will lead to further political instability and human rights violations in the DRC. They have urged President Kabila’s government to refrain from using brute force to curtail the fundament freedoms of citizens to assemble and express their views.