Rights group warns of clamp down on DRC opposition Amnesty International says opponents to president remaining in office face police intimidation

DRC President - Joseph Kabila

DRC President – Joseph Kabila

ARU, Democratic Republic of Congo (AA) – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has used security forces to clamp down on opposition to President Joseph Kabila’s plans to extend his rule, a rights group said Thursday.

Amnesty International claimed authorities had imposed blanket bans on opposition protests and broken up meetings while demonstrations in support of Kabila and the ruling coalition had been allowed to go ahead.

“The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organizations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy director for east Africa, said.

“This campaign of harassment and intimidation against dissident voices flies in the face of the DRC’s own constitution, as well as its international commitments to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

Kabila took office in 2001 following the assassination of his father, President Laurent Kabila. His second term, which should be his final period in office under the constitution, is due to finish in December but he is reportedly seeking a third term.

Evie Francq, an Amnesty researcher based in DRC, said: “We have documented many cases involving violations of human rights.”

Government spokesman Lambert Mende denied the charges and said: “In DRC there is no harassment of opposition. As we speak now, the opposition and government are in a dialogue which means there is harmony.”

Senior opposition figure Petit Bongwa, a member of the Convention of Christian Democrats, said it was “common to see policemen arresting members of the opposition, especially those trying to demonstrate against President Kabila’s intention to prolong his stay in power.”

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