Grave concerns about worsening crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Kabila fails to hold elections or come to agreement with opposition. He suddenly names new government, and his last legal term ended at midnight Kinshasa time.
December 19, 2016 - 6:45pm EST (Washington, DC) –
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has failed to agree to a democratic transition with the country's political opposition. After the Congolese government failed to hold scheduled elections on November 19, tonight at midnight marks the end of Kabila's second and last legally sanctioned term as the country's president, according to Congo's constitution. Five minutes before midnight on national television, Kabila announced a new government under Prime Minister Samy Badibanga, despite the lack of a political agreement with the opposition.
Civil society groups have organized numerous public demonstrations demanding President Kabila respect the constitution and help prepare for the democratic election of his successor. Many of those demonstrations have been met with brutal crackdowns by police and military forces. The government has blocked nearly all access to social media today, and at least two prominent activists are missing. There have been over 40 arrests reported today.
Enough Project experts are available for comment and analysis.
Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “The Congolese people have already endured untold repression in the weeks and months leading up to this flashpoint, especially those calling for a democratic transition of power. Today marks Kabila’s admission into a dangerous category of leaders who gain power by force, not by democratic process or respect for their people. Last week, the EU and US sent a strong message of warning by issuing sanctions, but today there is repression in the streets. The international community needs to enforce sanctions with vigilance and rigor, and above all, support the Congolese people as they fight for their right to vote in a new leader.”
Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: "Today is a turning point for Congo. Without a deal for a democratic transition, President Kabila should announce that he will not run in the next elections. That would help calm the major tensions. If not, the U.S. and Europe should ratchet up the financial pressure through sanctions on high-level advisors and anti-money laundering actions."
John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: "Clearly, President Kabila is not willing to relinquish power, and appears to be insisting on running for a third term whenever elections actually are held. The kleptocracy he has overseen is too lucrative to let go of, and so he will try to stay, even if it means the country catches fire around him."
Since as early as January 2015, Congolese people have taken to the streets and launched other advocacy efforts to express their support for a peaceful, timely presidential transition. Crackdowns on peaceful protesters, opposition leaders, and youth activists related to elections have been consistent since January 2015 when 36 were killed in a demonstration in Kinshasa and four in Goma. More recently, the week of September 19th, 44 people were killed and dozens arrested.
Last week, in an effort to promote restraint by security forces and show support for democracy, the European Union imposed targeted sanctions on seven individuals, for “holding positions of authority…over the Congolese security forces which have exercised a disproportionate use of force.” The United States also placed sanctions on two high-level Congolese officials last week, Evariste Boshab and Kalev Mutondo, bringing the total to five this year.
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