The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) enters a new political era where a court ruling earlier this year is what is keeping the incumbent in power.
A constitutional court ruled that Joseph Kabila should leave power only when a successor has been democratically elected. The opposition have vowed to eject Kabila through protests.
Their protest have been met with gunfire and teargas in parts of the country. Citizens in the diaspora have also joined in, Congolese in Belgium protested on Monday whiles others in South Africa hit the streets on Tuesday.
LIVE Updates for today December 23 coverage
UN rights chief wants accountability for ‘protest killings’
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday that there was the need to hold people accountable for deaths recorded in anti-Kabila protests in the DRC.
According to him, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) has documented at least 40 killings of civilians in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma and Matadi.
Some 107 people have been injured or ill-treated and there have been at least 460 arrests.
“Such high casualty figures suggest a serious disregard by the various police, defence and security forces of the need to exercise restraint in policing demonstrations. Not only are soldiers participating in law enforcement operations, but all the forces involved are heavily armed and using live ammunition,” Zeid said.
“The failure by the DRC authorities and the security forces, to abide by their international obligations to guarantee people’s right to freedoms of expression and of association and assembly is to be deplored,” he stressed.
Historic deal reached by Church – Kabila leaves by end of 2017
Opposition leaders are reporting that a historic deal has been reached in the new mediation by the church.
Details of the deal include:
1. Kabila will be expected to leave power by the end of next year instead of after April 2018 as projected by the electoral body.
2. Also the deal is such that the constitution cannot be amended to let Kabila stand for a third term.
3. A new Prime Minister will be named by the main opposition bloc.
4. Main opposition chief, Etienne Tshisekedi will oversee the implementation of the deal.
The government has yet to comment on the deal.
PM Badibanga’s interesting tweets on the situation in the country
On Thursday, Prime Minister Badibanga sent a series of tweets addressing the issues in the country.
The tweets ranged from war and poverty, health, the economy and one about ‘heaven and hell.’
Updates from Thursday December 22
Government makes more arrests in Lubumbashi
According to Reuters, Congolese authorities swept through the town of Lubumbashi making dozens of arrests in the southeastern mining town.
Jean Oscar Sanguza, mayor of the town described it as a “sweep up” operation targeting “criminals and bandits,” adding that the authorities were looking for arms. His view is challenged by local activists who say young men believed to be supporting opposition were being picked.
“As soon as you go and you are a young man – you are in a group of two or three – they (security forces) take you,” a local activist told Reuters. Jean Claude Baka estimated arrests effected since Thursday morning at 50.
US Envoy to Great Lakes region hopes for X’mas miracle
Hoping for a Christmas miracle from Congolese Bishops, working for a deal by Friday to guarantee DRC's first peaceful democratic transition— Tom Perriello (@tomperriello) December 21, 2016
Human Rights Watch gives anti-Kabila casualty figures as 34
Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch’s Central Africa director, said on Twitter that 34 people were killed in anti-government protests that occurred during the initial protests on Tuesday, raising the toll from an earlier count of 26.
She added that the group was also verifying additional reports of deaths. The Congolese government says 22 people died in the clashes, one of them a police officer.
Whiles the UN has pegged the death toll at 19 people. Meanwhile the powerful Catholic Church are hoping for a political deal ahead of the Christmas – they commenced their mediation efforts yesterday.
DRC: Bishops urge for a peaceful deal by Christmas to avert crisis https://t.co/MMYJsOOP2H— africanews (@africanews) December 21, 2016
Eastern DRC: Ethnic clashes leaves 18 dead
In other disturbing developments in the country’s east, ethnic clashes between the Hutu and Nande ethnic militias lead to the death of 18 people.
Seventeen civilians and a police officer being the casualties according to an army spokesperson. “Some were killed by gunshots and others by machetes,” Captain Guilluame told Reuters.
Recently an attack on a Hutu displaced people’s camp was carried out by the Mayi-Mayi Mazembe group. It led to the death of over 30 people.
Government reports of mass arrests in anti-Kabila protests
Security forces in the DRC reported the arrest of some 275 people during anti-Kabila protests on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Out of the 275, 159 had been released while the remaining 116 were still in detention according to police spokesman, Co Pierre Mwanamputu.
On the casualty front, he said 21 people and a police officer were killed, adding that most of those killed were either looting or that they were hit by stray bullets.
Updates from Wednesday December 21 coverage
Deaths reported in Lubumbashi during Tuesday protests – local NGO
A local NGO, Humanism and Human Rights report that during Tuesday’s protests in the second city of Lubumbashi, Congolese security forces killed eight civilians whiles 35 others were wounded.
Reuters quotes lawyer of HDH, King Kasongo as saying the killings took place in the Katuba district of the city. Several local government offices, health centers and gas stations were also attacked by protesters. One police woman was also wounded.
President Kabila and family own at least 70 companies in the DRC: report https://t.co/j2dnVFqoMG— africanews (@africanews) December 15, 2016
Sporadic gunfire in Kinshasa, UN confirms death of 19 protesters
Read FULL STORY Sporadic gunfire in Kinshasa, UN confirms 19 deaths
‘‘We are very concerned by the excessive use of force by state agents, notably the (police), the Republican Guard, the military police and the National Agency of Intelligence,’‘ Jose Maria Aranaz, head of the UN human rights office in Kinshasa told reporters.
The DRC has never seen a peaceful transition of power and there are continental and global fears that the current situation could spiral into a wider conflict within the Great Lakes region.
Anti-Kabila protests continue in South Africa – News24 reports
Privately owned media outfit, News24 is reporting that the anti-Kabila protests in South Africa continued into Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s protests at the DRC embassy in Pretoria.
Protesters were seen in Durban with banners calling on Kabila to “run away” with others chanting protest slogans.
Jeff Wicks, a journalist with News24 tweeted that “protesters hand over their memorandum to a city official and disperse peacefully.”
DRC: CENCO mediation restarts
After a very busy Tuesday marked by violence between the police and demonstrators in several cities of the country, Donatien Nshole, an official of the episcopal conference says the dialogue initiated by the CENCO will continue on Wednesday.
The Catholic bishops of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) opened a new political dialogue with government as part of efforts to quell political tensions in the country.
They suspended the talks and decided to fly to the Vatican until December 20 to find a compromise in the establishment of a transition period which will lead to the presidential election.
United States “descends” on DRC
The US has expressed worry about the situation in the DRC. Three top officials have spoken relative to happenings. The Secretary of State, John Kerry tweeted:
“Pivotal moment for DRC. We call on all parties to respect human rights, reject violence & redouble commitment to an inclusive agreement.”
A view Samantha Power, the US envoy to the UN agrees with in her tweet.
Urgently need inclusive pol process in #DRC;crckdwn on protesters will only backfire. Kabila must commit to peaceful,democratic pwr transfer— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) December 20, 2016
The Department of State also posted a video on the US position in the current ongoings.
South Africa concerned about situation in DRC
South Africa becomes the first African country to comment on the developments in the DRC, they added their voice to calls for restraint but also urged international bodies to do more to end the crisis.
A media statement to that effect was issued on December 20, 2016. It also advised Congolese in the diaspora to engage with leaders back home and not to resort to violence.
Nine dead in Tuesday violence in Kinshasa – government
The DRC government has confirmed that nine people were killed in clashes with security forces in Kinshasa on Tuesday.
The confirmation follows “solid” information by the UN rights office in the country putting the number of deaths at 20. Kabila meanwhile remains in power despite the expiration of his mandate.
Updates from Tuesday December 20 coverage
Germany supports Bishops mediation, says could vary government deals with DRC
“The German Government very much regrets that this has not happened despite all the efforts at national and international level.
“From now on, the Congolese Government’s scope for action will be restricted. The German Government will adapt its political contacts and cooperation in accordance. The negotiations on development cooperation scheduled to take place next year will be postponed indefinitely. The German Government reserves the right to take further steps.
“It supports the talks mediated by the Congolese Conference of Catholic Bishops aiming to reach a compromise solution to make the transitional period leading to the presidential elections as short as possible without having to amend the Constitution.
“If agreement is reached, the German Government is prepared, together with its European partners, to support the election process,” a statement by a Federal Foreign Office spokesperson in Berlin read.
Solid information that 20 civilians killed in Kinshasa – UN
Jose Maria Aranaz, the UN human rights director in the DRC has told Reuters in a telephone interview that there were “solid” reports that 20 civilians had been killed in confrontations with security forces in the capital, Kinshasa.
“On the issue of deaths, it looks bad. We are reviewing allegations of up to 20 civilians killed, but the information is pretty solid,” Aranaz told Reuters.
Maman S. Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of MONUSCO – the UN mission in the DRC, expressed his grave concern over the wave of ongoing arrests, some of which are arbitrary, and detentions in the last three days across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“I am gravely concerned by the arrests of those who seek to express their political views. I urge the national authorities to strictly adhere to their international human rights obligations, to create a climate of political tolerance and respect at this important juncture in the DRC’s history, and to grant full access to United Nations personnel to all detention centers.
“I call on the relevant authorities to apply due process for all those who have been detained and to bring an end to politically-motivated detentions.” said Maman S. Sidikou.
MONUSCO (@MONUSCO) December 20, 2016
Internet shutdown finally fulfilled
Meanwhile some people in the DRC are tweeting that internet services seem to be cut in the midst of the protests and security clampdown.
Authorities in the DRC last Thursday issued a directive to telecommunication companies to block social media from Sunday to curb possible unrest as the mandate of President Kabila ends. An AFP source said that the shutdown should start from Sunday 1800 GMT.
Amnesty International slammed the directive on the same day. Sarah Jackson, its Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said: “The social media shutdown on the eve of the end of President Kabila’s mandate is a blatant attempt to keep the Congolese people in the dark at a critical time, and must be rescinded immediately.
Anti-Kabila Congolese protest in South Africa, rubber bullets fired, arrests made
Meanwhile, in South Africa, police fired rubber bullets at scores of protesters, a journalist pegged the figure at 100, who staged a protest outside the DRC embassy in Pretoria.
The protesters according to a spokesman were demanding Kabila to step down.
Several of them were wounded and seven arrested for public order offences by the police Kabila remains president of the country as a result of a court ruling allowing him to stay on till elections are next held.
France wants EU to examine relations with the DRC
Reuters reports that France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday called for the European Union to re-examine its relations with the DRC after Kabila failed to step down following the expiration of his second term.
“After the constitutional mandate of President Kabila ended, France is concerned by reports of arrests as well as violence in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi,” spokesman Romain Nadal said in a daily briefing.
“The seriousness of the situation justifies that the European Union re-examines its relations with Congo,“ he added.
SUGGESTED READING Belgium, joins US and UK, issues travel alert to citizens in the DRC
PM calls for calm and restraint by security forces, UN not bemused by wave of arrests
DR Congo Prime Minister, Samy Badibanga called on the population to remain “calm” a day after Kabila commenced his new term after the expiration of his second and final term.
Badibanga had maintained his role as PM in Kabila’s new government named late on Monday. There are reports of protests across the country with gunfire in the second city of Lubumbashi and teargas fired in the capital, Kinshasa.
The PM also called on the security forces “to be restraint.” There has been reports of arrests by the security forces who have been deployed in lost parts of the country.
“I would like to appeal for calm, peace and tranquility throughout the Republic,” Samy Badibanga told the press.
Meanwhile, the United Nations in a communiqué on Tuesday said it condemned the “wave of arrests and detentions” in DR Congo.
SUGGESTED READING DRC: “Special FOCUS” on Kabila’s ‘final’ day before the new “era”
Main opposition leader launches peaceful resistance
Historic opposition chief, Etienne Tshisekedi, a few hours into the ‘new’ mandate of Kabila, called on Congolese to peacefully resist the regime.
In a video making the rounds on social media, he calls for people not to recognize Kabila because he had lost legitimacy.
“I launch a solemn appeal to the Congolese people not to recognise the illegal and illegitimate authority of Joseph Kabila and to peacefully resist his cling on to power.”
Gunfire heard in Lubumbashi, teargas in Kinshasa
A local correspondent of AFP reported that gunfire was heard on Tuesday morning in Lubumbashi, the second city of the DRC where security forces were widely deployed as Kabila’s mandate expired.
The firing began around 9:15 am (0715 GMT) in a southeastern part of the southeastern city of the country, according to a journalist who passed shortly before in this area, the scene of clashes between demonstrators and the police witnessed by several burnt tires Abandoned on a road strewn with stones.
Over in the capital, Kinshasa, police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse young people from the streets. There were whistle sounds around midnight to signify the end of the Kabila era.
Top diplomat confirms Kabila to stay on ‘to preserve the peace’
A top diplomat to Kabila, Barnabe Kikaya, had confirmed on Monday that the president will remain in office when his mandate expires to save the country from chaos.
He stressed that Kabila can only step down when a new president is elected but elections are not due until 2018. The government and elections officials have blamed logistical and financial problems for the delay in the vote, currently scheduled for April 2018.
“If for any reason, the president yielded to the pressure, as he is being asked to do, and I do not see that he is going to yield to any pressure, if he resigned or anything else, he would then be violating the constitution and he could then be put on trial because he would plunge the country into an indescribable chaos,” the diplomat said.
DR Congo: Protests begin as Kabila stays on https://t.co/xlfyhlaU45— africanews (@africanews) December 20, 2016
Kabila names 74-man cabinet, Badibanga maintains PM role
As his mandate run out leading into the next morning, Kabila named a new cabinet comprising 74 ministers and deputies.
Sammy Badibanga, a former MP who defected from the main opposition UDPS maintains his role as the Prime Minister.
Badibanga joined the government under a deal brokered by AU mediator, Edem Kodjo, with a section of the opposition. Members of the faction are listed in the team.