A top UN rights official called Tuesday for an independent investigation into a surge of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, insisting the country could still avert a large-scale crisis.
“There can be no appeasement,” said Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“An independent, transparent and credible investigation is needed to bring the perpetrators and instigators of violence to justice,” she insisted in a speech before the UN Human Rights Council.
Her comments came after deadly clashes between police and demonstrators in Kinshasa last week, as opposition groups demanded the resignation of President Joseph Kabila.
Kabila has led DRC since 2001, and under the constitution, is barred from running for a third term, but although his current term ends on December 20, no date for new elections has been announced and there are fears he plans to stay in power.
“I can confirm to you here that there is no question of breaching the constitution,” DRC minister of justice and human rights Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told the council Tuesday.
“The elections will be organised,” he said, adding that the specific date was still being determined in cooperation with “international entities, including the United Nations”.
At least 49 civilians and four police officers were killed on September 19 and 20 alone, and 127 civilians were injured, “allegedly at the hands of the Republican Guard, army and police,” Gilmore said.
DRC police last week put the toll at 32 killed, while the opposition said there were “more than 100 dead”.
“A large-scale crisis could be just around the corner,” Gilmore said, urging “all actors to heed this wake-up call.”
“Charting a path away from the violence of this past week is entirely doable. It is simply a matter of political will,” she insisted.
The UN’s top rights body is set this week to vote on a resolution on the situation in DRC, and rights activists have been calling for a strongly worded text.