Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to release opposition supporters and youth activists detained on or around February 16, 2016 in connection with “Ville Morte”.
“Ville Morte” was a national strike led by the opposition to protest delays in the organisation of presidential elections in that country.
Security forces reportedly stormed the offices of an organisation where youth activists had been preparing banners for the nationwide strike.
“In 2016, we won the [African Nations (football) Championships] Cup; we can also win democracy,” read one of the banners.
About 30 political opponents and eight youth activists were arrested during the event in the eastern city of Goma.
The activists were taken to the prosecutor’s office where they were charged with associating with criminals and attempting to incite revolt.
The global humanitarian body has said all the charges against those arrested appear to be politically motivated.
“Peaceful protest is not a crime, and the Congolese authorities should immediately release all those wrongfully arrested or detained on trumped up charges,” said Ida Sawyer, Senior Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch.
HRW also said that the latest arrests are part of a crackdown on opponents of the government’s attempts to delay elections and extend the president’s term in office.
The country has been rocked by a series of protests that oppose President Joseph Kabila’s extension in office beyond his mandate expected to end later in the year.