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DRC: Church worried over delays in release of political prisoners

DRC: Church worried over delays in release of political prisoners

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) has expressed “concern” over the delay in the implementation of the release of political prisoners almost a fortnight after the signing of the political deal in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“We are surprised by the delay … there are prisoners who had been announced as freed and until now we have not had proof that they are really released,” said Bishop Fridolin Ambongo, Vice-president CENCO. Emphasizing that ordinarily, “these releases had to take effect immediately” after the signing of the agreement.

“We are worried because the cases that were eligible for release after the negotiations are not followed until now,” Ambongo added.

We are surprised by the delay ... there are prisoners who had been announced as freed and until now we have not had proof that they are really released.

Negotiations brokered by the Church between the government and the opposition resulted in an agreement calling for polls to be held later this year. The deal also prevents Kabila from running for a third term whiles giving the opposition the position of Prime Minister in a transitional government.

Main opposition Rally delegates, the coalition around the historical opponent Etienne Tshisekedi, had presented “seven particular cases” of political prisoners and pushed for their release as part of the deal.

Four cases had been approved by all parties for release, while three others, including that of the Moise Katumbi, a former ally of Mr. Kabila who joined the opposition in September 2015 and is currently abroad, remains in contention.

The DRC was nearly plunged in a political crisis resulting from the postponement of the presidential election which should have been held late last year. Incumbent Kabila, who has been in power since 2001 was allowed to stay in power by a court ruling till elections are held.

On 20 December, at the end of his term, at least 40 people were killed and over 100 others arrested, some tried and sentenced for protesting for the end of Kabila’s term. The DRC has not undergone a peaceful political transition since its independence from Belgium in 1960.

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