The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been condemned for its brutal suppression of the protests organized by the Roman Catholic Church in January this year in which over 47 people were killed by security and defence forces.
A joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) stated that the Congolese security services tried to cover these human rights violations by removing the bodies of victims and tried to hamper national and international observers during the investigations.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, Leila Zerrougui, said the violations are “inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the 31 December 2016 Agreement and its confidence-building measures. Demonstrations are intrinsically related to freedom of expression and it is absolutely necessary that all voices can be heard in the context of the forthcoming elections,” Zerrougui said.
The report said though some of the protesters carried sticks and broomsticks and some also tried to perpetrate violence, the vast majority of the protests were peaceful and therefore the use of excessive force and lethal force, by security officers was unlawful, unjustified and disproportionate.
“It is particularly disturbing that security services and defence forces carry out this violence with almost full impunity which can be perceived as encouraging such repression,” he said. “We are seeing the quashing of dissent at all costs – even at the cost of human life – in the DRC by the systematic deployment of armed forces alongside the Police Nationale Congolaise to handle protests.” Zerrougui said.
The UN demanded that the Government should allow people exercise of the “rights to peaceful assembly and expression.” The report warned that warning any repression would breed frustration, which could result in further deteriorations in the security situation in the country.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos
Image Credits/Google Images/Leila MONUSCO