Leading opposition leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Moise Katumbi, says the incumbent Joseph Kabila is gradually leading the country into a state of totalitarianism.
The TP Mazembe bankroller who is currently out of the country was adding his voice to condemnation by the DRC government to bar a personnel of Human Rights Watch (HRW) from the country.
Katumbi wrote on his twitter handle, ‘‘Deportation of Ida Sawyer is a new drift into totalitarianism. We commend her commitment to human rights in DRC where we need HRW.’‘
— Moise Katumbi (@moise_katumbi) August 9, 2016
Katumbi, a former governor of Katanga province and an ally of Kabila, has been handed a four-year jail term in a property appropriation case despite being absent from the country. His lawyers have labeled the charges and conviction as part of a political witch-hunt.
Reports indicated that he was expected back in the country to participate in the political process even though the country’s Justice Minister had earlier warned that he would be jailed if he returned.
HRW reacts: DRC government must take rights issues seriously
HRW meanwhile through its executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement that the Kabila government was trying to muzzle reporting on brutal repression of political opponents.
“This is about more than forcing Ida Sawyer out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but is a brazen attempt to muzzle reporting on the government’s brutal repression of those supporting presidential term limits.
Locking up Congolese activists and forcing international rights monitors out of the country are the tactics of abusive governments,” he said.
The rights group noted that the government has since January 2015 used the security forces to carry out a crackdown on opposition activists and persons opposed to the stay of Kabila in power beyond his constitutionally mandated second term which ends in December 2016.
HRW enumerates instances of security forces uses force on peaceful protesters, a ban on protests and closure of several media outlets at part of the crackdown. They further noted that 14 activists and political opponents are languishing in jail on trumped up charges.
“The government should get serious about improving human rights by freeing all political prisoners and allowing Congolese and international rights defenders, including Sawyer, to continue their vital work,” Roth added.