Seven international non-governmental organisations have urged the international community to take urgent action to uphold democracy and human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the post-election crisis shows no signs of abating.
The organisations - the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network, European Network for Central Africa, Eastern Congo Initiative, Enough Project, Human Rights Watch, Humanity United and theOpen Society Foundations - made the call in a letter to the Great Lakes Contact Group ahead of its meeting last week. They stressed that the international community should urgently strengthen its engagement towards the electoral process and its aftermath in the DRC, especially as the European Union election observation mission, EurAc, the Carter Center, and national election observation missions - most notably the Catholic Church and AETA - have all stated that the November 28th polls were deeply flawed and marred by widespread irregularities.
According to the groups, "Permitting these election results to stand without serious attempts to rectify them or to correct the process that led to the flaws will be a serious blow to building democracy in the DRC and is likely to lead to instability."
In order to prevent further violence and to promote democratic legitimacy, the organisations called on the international community to immediately take the following steps:
1. Insist that any solution to the Congolese crisis must be based on respect for democratic principles.
2. Recommend a thorough reform of the Congolese Election Commission (CENI), which has lost its credibility and needs to be reconstituted with universally respected members and equitable representation from all parties.
3. Strongly and publicly condemn attacks by the security services to suppress citizens' rights and demand accountability since Congolese citizens, opposition supporters and others have been killed, illegally detained, disappeared or otherwise harassed by state security forces during and after the electoral campaign - and the abuses continue. The leading opposition candidate, Etienne Tshisekedi, is now effectively under house arrest. The international community should insist that the Congolese authorities uphold the rule of law, ensure citizens' rights, regardless of their political affiliation, and arrest those responsible for the illegal acts described above.
4. Support the right to peaceful protest and ensure that the march by Congolese civil society, which is scheduled for February 16th to call for justice and democratically legitimate institutions, and to commemorate the 1992 'March of Christians' when Mobutu's troops killed and wounded dozens of peaceful demonstrators, is allowed to proceed since the right to assemble is a fundamental right enshrined in the Congolese constitution.
The organisations concluded by stating, "We believe that Congo is at an important juncture in its efforts to move towards democracy. Timely and constructive international involvement is needed to help move events in a positive direction."