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DRC Elections – U.N. Condemns Rights Violations

Emmanuel Chaco

KINSHASA, Mar 23 2012 (IPS) - A report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office has slammed the government and security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, condemning electoral violence linked to the Nov. 30 elections which led to at least 33 deaths in the capital, Kinshasa.

The report, looking into serious rights violations committed by security forces in the capital alone at the end of last year, said a further 16 people had gone missing and that around 90 people were injured by live rounds fired by the police and army. All the presumed victims were civilians.

Published on Mar. 21, the report called on the government to “conduct an independent, credible and impartial investigation into all the cases of serious human rights violations committed in Kinshasa between Nov. 26 and Dec. 25, 2011, and to bring all the alleged perpetrators of the abuses to justice, whether they are members of the Republican Guard (the army unit closest to DRC president Joseph Kabila), other FARDC (national army) soldiers or PNC (national police) officers, irrespective of their rank.”

Addie Kitona, a mother of three, was personally caught up in violence that took place in Kinshasa’s Bandalungwa commune following the challenging of provisional results of the presidential elections.

“The police fired teargas at us, paying no attention to bystanders, who included children. As I was running away, I tripped and fell on top of my four-year-old. She broke her collarbone,” said Kitona. “After I fell, the police chasing after youth who had attacked them, trampled on me with their boots and struck me several times on the back and stomach.”

Annie Botendi, a law student at the University of Kinshasa, recalls seeing at least three bodies riddled with bullets lying on the ground along the road from Kimwenza, a neighbourhood in the Mont Ngafula commune where she lives.

“They were collected in the afternoon by people from the Red Cross to be buried… after having been identified by the municipal authorities,” she told IPS.

All efforts by IPS to get comment from the local authorities in the Kinshasa communes of Bandalungwa and Mong Ngafula failed.

Leila Zerrougui, the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in DRC, responsible for human rights, said the numbers in the report should not be seen as final. “The figures presented in the report could yet be reviewed upwards, if one takes into account that there were many areas that were inaccessible due to the fear and paranoia that prevailed during this period as well as the fact that many medical facilities were ordered not to release information about victims they attended to.”

In response, the Congolese government said that it does not recognise the validity of the report, and noted several points of error. “This report is partisan, incomplete, and incoherent; it contains false numbers and it has not incorporated remarks from government, particularly regarding judicial processes that have already been opened in response to violations that are under investigation,” Minister for Justice and Human Rights Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi Lessa told IPS.

“There was a need for a joint inquiry involving the Congolese government, civil society, the judiciary and the United Nations in order to produce a credible report,” he added. “The United Nations did not do this.”

But Jean Claver Mudumbi, a human rights defender, disagreed. “The government is still making the mistake of rejecting all reports on violations of human rights. This is because it often does not have the same information as human rights defenders who are often on the ground, close to the people,” he said.

“There is no interaction between different local administrations, which themselves have neither the statistics for their own precincts, nor the means to document human rights violations committed there.”

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