Police in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have maintained that they intend to strictly observe the ban on political demonstrations, despite a UN panel of human rights experts labeling the ban as “unjustified.”
According to the police in a statement issued on Thursday, their position prohibiting any political demonstration will be observed. They also issued a caution to the opposition coalition “The Rally” over their planned November 5 protest in the capital.
“The National Police cautions that the day of November 5, 2016 remains an ordinary day, like so many others, where everyone should freely go about their business, and no disturbance of public order will be tolerated,” the statement warned.
In fact, given that the country is in a hotly disputed election period, people should be given more space, not less, to express their democratic freedoms.
It added that the presence of police units will be strengthened in all the hot spots and strategic sites with the aim of observing the prohibition of any action of unauthorized political nature by any group of people.
The Etienne Tshisekedi led “Rally” have served notice of a protest this Saturday. The last protest they organized over two days in September ended in the death of some 50 people. A UN report later disclosed that the security forces used excessive force on protesters.
On Thursday, experts of the UN Human Rights called on the Congolese authorities to lift the protest ban calling it “unconstitutional”.
“It is clear that the current situation in the DRC does not justify a general ban on demonstrations in several cities,” they noted.
“In fact, given that the country is in a hotly disputed election period, people should be given more space, not less, to express their democratic freedoms.”
Since the ban on protests in Kinshasa took effect on September 22, at least four demonstrations have been cancelled.
The DRC is in the middle of a political crisis occasioned by the continued stay of the incumbent Joseph Kabila beyond his constitutionally mandated second term. The electoral body have said the inability to hold elections are because of the unavailability of a voter roll and adequate time to prepare.
Government and a section of the opposition have agreed on an April 2018 date to run the next elections. The main opposition groups however are against the deal brokered by the African Union mediator Edem Kodjo.