DRC: Spate of Arrests Following Activist Conference
In response to the arrest during a press conference of more than 40 pro-democracy activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“A democracy requires political participation and pluralism, where the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly are respected and where citizens can hold leaders accountable,” said Vukasin Petrovic, regional director for Africa. “These arrests seem to demonstrate President Kabila’s desire to limit citizen involvement in politics, which is not entirely surprising given that many leaders in the region find increased civic engagement threatening to their grip on power.”
The press conference, held on March 15 in the capital, was organized by Filimbi, a movement aimed at encouraging civic engagement by mobilizing youth in the DRC. The conference was part of a two day gathering bringing together activists from throughout the region to share experiences and lessons learned. Influential youth activists from the movements of Senegal’s Y’en A Marre and Burkina Faso’s Balai Citoyen were among those arrested.
This crackdown comes just months after Congolese authorities killed at least 40 people involved in protesting a review of electoral legislation that would have postponed 2016 presidential elections and extended President Kabila’s time in power despite term limits.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.