GENEVA (14 December 2018) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed deep concern at violence against opposition rallies this week in at least three provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the presidential elections to be held on 23 December. Bachelet called on the authorities to ensure that these incidents are promptly investigated, and that “the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – essential conditions for credible elections – are fully protected.”
On 11 December, at least three men were killed and several injured after police reportedly fired live ammunition and used teargas and water cannons against an opposition rally in Lubumbashi in the Haut-Katanga province. The convoy of presidential candidate Martin Fayulu also reportedly came under attack by police. In the ensuing clashes between supporters of various parties, seven vehicles, including one belonging to the Police Nationale Congolaise were destroyed and the prosecutor’s office burned down. On 12 December, Fayulu’s campaign was again disrupted, this time in Kalemie, Tanganyika province. A young woman was killed and at least nine others injured, including two by live ammunition. And yesterday, in Mbuji Mayi in Kasai Orientale province, the provincial governor deployed soldiers and police officers on several roads to prevent people from greeting another presidential candidate, Felix Tshisekedi. A 16-year-old boy was reportedly killed by a soldier of the Forces Armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC).
“I am deeply worried about the reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by security forces against opposition rallies,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “I am also concerned at reports of the use of inflammatory speech by political leaders.”
“Just days ahead of crucial elections in the DRC, it is essential that the authorities ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully protected and that they take all possible measure to prevent violence. This includes ensuring that all the candidates are able to hold meetings and rallies to campaign for their election.”
Bachelet also expressed alarm at reports of armed groups’ interference with election campaigning. There have been threats against supporters of political parties, notably the presidential majority, particularly in North and South Kivu.
Supporters of the opposition have also reportedly disrupted campaign meetings held by presidential majority candidates in Kwilu and Kasai provinces. A number of incidents targeting opposition supporters were also registered in Maniema province.
“In an already tense electoral environment, I urge the Government to send a clear signal that threats and violence against political opponents will not be tolerated,” she said. “I call on the Government of the DRC to ensure that all such incidents are promptly, effectively investigated and the perpetrators are held accountable.” Bachelet called on all parties to refrain from violence and urged security forces to remain impartial.
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