Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo were reported to have arrested at least 27 associates of Moise Katumbi, a presidential aspirant, and other opposition party members since he announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections.
All arrests occurred around the southern city of Lubumbashi, where Katumbi is based.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the alleged “recruitment of mercenaries, (including) several retired American soldiers, by Katumbi appears to be politically motivated.”
“The arrests seem more than just the usual police harassment, but targeted actions against a presidential aspirant and close supporters,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW.”
Recently, police fired teargas at Katumbi and a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Lubumbashi to block an opposition rally at which Katumbi was to speak. Also, two opposition party headquarters in Lubumbashi were recently vandalized.
HRW said that the recent developments come in the context of a broader crackdown against activists, opposition party members and others who have urged that presidential elections be organized according to the constitutional timetable.
“Over the past year and a half, government officials and security forces have arrested dozens of opposition leaders and activists, fired on peaceful protesters, banned demonstrations organized by the opposition, shut down media outlets close to the opposition, intimidated and threatened those who have considered joining the opposition, and prevented opposition leaders from moving freely around the country. In numerous recent cases, the justice system and other state institutions – including the ANR, police, and Republican Guard – have acted in a partisan manner on behalf of the government, Human Rights Watch concluded.