Freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Political Context, State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Capital: Kinshasa

Population: 81,339,988

GDP 2017 (US$ million): 37,241.30

Language: French

Political Regime Type: Unitary Semi-Presidential Republic

President: Joseph Kabila

Current Political Context

  • President Kabila has held onto power beyond his term limit, and authorities have stalled plans to organise elections
  • The national election commission published a calendar setting December 23, 2018 as the date for new elections, however they noted that numerous constraints could impact the timeline and most have seen this as another tactic to continue Kabila’s time in power
  • Both the US and the EU have placed sanctions against 8 senior Congolese government and security officials as well as a militia leader like travel bans, assets freezes, and a ban on making funds or economic resources available to or engaging in transactions with those individuals

State of Democracy

  • A political agreement was signed in December 2016, the end of Kabila’s term, by the ruling coalition, the opposition and some civil society organisations, providing that Kabila would remain in power and government of national unity would be appointed
  • The Prime Minister, chosen by opposition, would lead the government and be charged with the task of organising elections by December 2017
  • There is an overall general inability for the people to change their government through democratic means

State of Rule of Law

  • When the Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the main opposition the Rassemblement, died, and Kabila unilaterally appointed Bruno Tshibala as Prime Minister, which the opposition refused to recognise
  • There is rampant impunity within the government, let alone the judicial system, especially with the case of Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp, both members of the UN Security Council DRC Sanctions Committee’s Group of Experts who were executed when completing and investigative missions in Kasai Central province

State of Human Rights

  • Security forces repeatedly sought to silence, repress, and intimidate the political oppositions, human rights and pro-democracy activists, journalists, and peaceful protesters
  • M23 rebel fighters from neighboring countries were used as a special protection force for the president
  • Security forces and the government have repeatedly banned oppositions demonstration, shut down media outlets, and prevented oppositions leaders to move freely; they have jailed more than 300 opposition leaders and supporters, journalists, and human rights and pro-democracy activists many held without charge or access to legal counsel (most were later released)
  • Six hundred schools were attacked or destroyed, and 1.4 million people were displaced from their homes, including more than 35,000 refugees who fled to Angola.
  • Many of the armed group’s commanders have been implicated in war crimes, including ethnic massacres, rape, forced recruitment of children, and pillage

Freedom House Democracy Index Score (2018): 16/100