Kinshasa: A government crackdown on demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila in Democratic Republic of Congo has led to the killing of 47 people in just over a year, a UN report said.
“Between 1 January 2017 and 31 January 2018, at least 47 people, including women and children, were killed by security services and defence forces in the context of demonstrations,” the report states.
It added that there were indications Congolese security services had attempted to cover up the deaths by removing the bodies of victims and obstructing the work of national and international observers.
The report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN mission chief in DR Congo Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein as well as UN special representative for DRC Leila Zerrougui documents “killings and other serious human rights violations due to the use of excessive force by security services and defence forces” against protesters.
The UN condemned the “systematic suppression of demonstrations, including through the use of disproportionate force (which) is a serious breach of international human rights law and the laws of the DRC.”
The world body called for “a meaningful, transparent and independent judicial investigation into these violations and other allegations”, noting that security forces were seemingly able to act “with almost full impunity”.
Zerrougui and Zeid urged the Kinshasa government to permit peaceful assembly and expression, warning repression would likely spark more unrest and “could pose a threat to the electoral process.”
Public protests have mounted over months after Kabila refused to leave office when his term expired in December 2016.
Three demonstrations since the new year have left at least 17 dead.
The influential Catholic Church brokered an accord under which Kabila could remain in power if elections were jeld last year but the deal fell through.
The Church wants Kabila to stand aside in a presidential vote now slated for December 23.
“For credible elections to be held at the end of this year, the government has an obligation to ensure that people’s civil and political rights are respected and their exercise is facilitated,” the report concluded.
Opposition lawmaker Gerard Mulumba, arrested in November, was meanwhile handed an 18-month jail term Monday for “insulting” Kabila, his defence counsel Leon Ngombwa said, vowing to appeal.