DR Congo: the EU must take bold and concrete measures and expand targeted sanctions after deadly protests
23 January 2018
After protests organised across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) turned deadly on 21 January 2018 as well as last 31 December, a third round of European Union (EU) targeted sanctions must be applied against new Congolese senior political and security individuals responsible for human rights abuse, excessive use of force during demonstrations and the violent crackdown on dissident voices, to increase the pressure on the President Joseph Kabila and his regime, said the European Network for Central Africa (EurAc) today.
According to the Catholic Church, on 21 January the violent repression by national security forces of the protests, organised across the country by members of the Catholic Church and the Comité Laïc de Coordination (CLC), resulted in the death of at least 6 people, the wounding of around 40 persons and over 200 arrests. Similar clashes three weeks ago on 31 December 2017 left at least 5 people dead, several others injured and over 120 persons unlawfully arrested, according to the United Nations. During both demonstrations, the majority of the protesters were church goers and members of the clergy, peacefully walking after the Sunday mass. Security forces reportedly fired live rounds and teargases in the streets and into churches. Both on 31 December and 21 January, the Congolese government shut down internet and telephone services in the country. Due to the shutdown, some injured protesters were unable to access emergency help.
In reaction to these very worrying events, the EU kept a timid attitude, publishing on 3 January and 23 January weak statements with no concrete nor firm measures to prevent further escalation of violence and abuse in the country, in incoherence with the strong December 2017 Council Conclusions where the EU clearly stated that the individual responsibility of DRC officials would be engaged in cases of serious human rights violations and acts of violence.
Fortunately, the European Parliament adopted last week a strong resolution calling on the EU and its Member States to give priority to human rights values and consider expanding targeted sanctions and “employing additional means, as provided for in the Cotonou Agreement, if the situation continues to deteriorate”. In support thereof, several Members of the European Parliament personally raised their voice to denounce the lack of firmness and concrete reaction and action from the EU, asking for new concrete measures to be taken. At the member state level, Belgium reacted by announcing the partial suspension of its bilateral direct aid through the DRC government and a strategic reorientation to NGOs, civil society and humanitarian assistance, also urging the EU to put the situation in the DRC at the agenda of next Foreign Affairs Council.
“The EU and EU member states must stop turning a blind eye to the recent deadly repression of anti-government protests, as well as on the incessant repressive climate and brutal crackdown against peaceful dissent in Congo. The time is now for the EU to send a strong signal to President Joseph Kabila and DRC officials that violating the rights of the Congolese people is costly for those responsible”, said Brune Mercier, EurAc Director.
EurAc reiterates its call on the EU and EU member states to strongly and publicly condemn human rights abuses and urgently take bolder action by extending targeted sanctions (asset freeze and travel ban) against new individuals, key senior security force officers and government officials, closer to the inner circle of President Kabila, responsible for serious human rights violations taking place across the country, including the recent killings and acts of violence during the 31 December 2017 and 21 January 2018 protests and/or for hindering the democratic process and obstructing a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis. We also call on the EU to urge Congolese authorities for an independent investigation on the violent repression of the demonstrations of 21 January 2018, 31 December 2017, as well as of September and December 2016, and to establish individual responsibilities.
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Julie Capoulade - Communications & Advocacy Officer - EurAc
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Note to editors
Created in 2003, the European Network for Central Africa (EurAc) gathers 38 member organisations from civil society based in 11 European countries. These organisations work on and in the Great Lakes region. They support civil society organisations in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda in their efforts to promote peace, the defence of human rights and development.
EurAc concentrates its activities on advocacy towards European institutions and policy- and decision-makers, around 3 central themes for the Great Lakes region: (1) peace and security, (2) democracy and human rights and (3) management of natural resources. Transversely from these fields, the improvement of governance and the strengthening of non-State players as a counterpower are priorities of our advocacy work.