The UN said on Tuesday that soldiers “forced entry” into its base in the volatile Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo aiming to arrest a journalist critical of President Joseph Kabila. Journalist Edouard Diye Tshitenge had been planning to present a manifesto on Monday demanding the removal of Kabila, who has refused to step down despite constitutional limits, reports suggest:
But the general who heads operations in the region, where at least 3 000 people have been killed in a conflict since last year, banned the presentation for alleged security reasons. The troops pursued Tshitenge to the facility in Kananga operated by Monusco, the UN peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting strong UN condemnation.
Kabila is exercising power “in manifest breach of the Constitution” and is therefore liable to the offense of high treason, according to a new Manifesto of the Congolese Citizen, which aims to ensure the “return of constitutional order.” The statement, signed and disseminated by pro-democracy activists, calls on the Congolese people to “perform their sacred duty, using peaceful and non-violent means” to thwart Kabila’s efforts to remain in power after December 31, 2017 (his formal final mandate expired on December 19, 2016.
The manifesto signatories, who include several partners of the National Endowment for Democracy, call for “a citizens’ transition” with the primary objective of organizing credible, transparent, open, and free elections:
This transition must help provide the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our country, with a new system of governance built on an independent judiciary, security services who are there to protect our citizens, free expression of our constitutional freedoms, transparent and fair management of all national resources, and strong and democratic institutions that put the interests of the Congolese citizen at the heart of every political initiative.
But the chances of holding credible elections are waning due to the government’s repression of the media and civil society, a UN Human Rights Office rep told Bloomberg:
“The space required for a credible electoral process is rapidly shrinking,” field operations director Georgette Gagnon told reporters Friday in the eastern city of Goma at the conclusion of a week-long visit to the central African country. …The UN rights-monitoring body has documented violations against 225 members of civil-society organizations and 31 journalists this year, she said. Communications Minister Lambert Mende said by phone he didn’t know what Gagnon was talking about and it seemed “everyone wants to dramatize the situation” in Congo.
More than 3,000 people have died in political violence since last October, including two UN experts, RFI reports.
“This is a chaos strategy being used by the Kabila regime to stay in power,” Floribert Anzuluni, coordinator of the citizen movement Filimbi told RFI. “You know this situation started in Beni in the eastern part of Congo, then we saw Kananga in the Kasai provinces, now in Kinshasa. It’s actually Mr Kabila who is organizing this instability.”