Editor's Note: This post was written by Enough Project intern Sophie Haggerty.
A resolution passed on March 10 in the European Union Parliament and a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry from 25 student leaders in the U.S. have called for increased policy action on President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to hold national elections freely, fairly, and on time. The two public notices particularly call on the U.S. and E.U. to place targeted sanctions on Kabila’s inner circle. These statements have come at a time when democracy activists are increasingly being jailed in Congo, for example the arrest of 18 LUCHA activists following a peaceful demonstration on March 15.
On Thursday, March 10, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concern about the deteriorating security and human rights situation in the DRC. The resolution underscores the importance of an impartial Congolese Independent Election Commission (known by its French acronym, CENI) and offers the support of the institutions of both the European Union and its member-states to ensure “transparent, credible and inclusive elections” in a timely manner in the DRC.
The EU resolution condemns the incumbent Congolese government’s arbitrary and forceful crackdown on peaceful activists, civil society groups, and political opposition, and calls for the immediate release of political prisoners in the DRC. The European Parliament also hailed the upcoming presidential and legislative elections as an opportunity for democratic transition of power, and offers its resources in efforts to end “the persistence and consolidation of impunity in the DRC,” especially in relation to President Kabila’s efforts to extend his stay in power.
Accordingly, the European Parliament “considers the fight against impunity to be a prerequisite for re-establishing peace in the DRC; asks for a full, thorough and transparent investigation to be launched by the DRC Government … into the human rights violations that took place during the election-related protests.”|
As part of the EU and its member-states potential arsenal of tools to put pressure on the ruling regime, the resolution “calls for the EU to consider imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible for the violent crackdown in the DRC, including travel bans and asset freezes, so as to help prevent further violence.”
On Monday, March 14, a group of 25 student leaders from the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative, Jewish World Watch, and STAND signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, echoing the sentiment of the EU resolution. In the letter, the student activists asked Secretary Kerry to mobilize the power of U.S. leadership to protect civil society actors in the DRC by employing targeted sanctions, supporting independent investigations into human rights violations and high-level corruption by government officials, and calling for Kabila to hand over power peacefully.
Further calls for action like those above could encourage the EU, EU member-states, and the US government to prioritize the issue of impunity in the DRC and put pressure on the Congolese government to move in the direction of peaceful democratic transition.