The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has imposed an Internet blackout on the country for a third straight day as protesters kept up pressure on President Joseph Kabila.
The government late Monday ordered telecommunications companies to sever all Internet and short-message services, after antigovernment protests spread from the capital Kinshasa to the restive eastern Kivu provinces.
At least 15 people have been killed since the protests erupted, said Information Minister Lambert Mende, who said most of the dead were looters. But the International Federation for Human Rights on Thursday put the number of the dead at 42. Mr. Mende disputed that figure.
Meanwhile, police backed by troops battled protesters in the eastern city of Goma. The protests aim to stop the country’s Senate from passing legislation that would require a national census in the continent’s top copper producer before the next national elections. Such a move could extend the president’s time in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two, five-year terms. Mr. Kabila’s second term expires in 2016.
Critics say it could take years to put together census to cover a country the size of Western Europe. The government insists a census could be completed within a year.
The Wall Street Journal
The parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo has passed a new election law after removing contentious provisions ordering a pre-election census. The previous version, passed a week ago, led to deadly protests.
Lawmakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday gave final approval to a disputed new election law in a version amended to remove provisions that the opposition claimed would extend President Joseph Kabila’s term in office.
The law, which in its previous version ordered a national census before the next presidential election in 2016, triggered days of protests that killed dozens after the lower house passed it last weekend.
The second vote in the National Assembly on Sunday came after the Senate, under public and diplomatic pressure, on Friday amended the bill to read that the electoral roll only had to be updated by the time elections take place in 2016.
The opposition had said that carrying out a census would cause a long delay to the elections, allowing Kabila to stay in power for longer. A census in Congo could take years to complete owing to the country’s large population of 60 million and lack of basic infrastructure.
There have been clashes in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, between police and protesters opposed to electoral changes that could prolong the reign of the president. Unrest was also reported in the east of the country.
Police fired tear gas at the crowd of several thousand protesters who’d gathered in the streets of Kinshasa. There were also clashes in the eastern city of Goma on Monday. Journalists reported people with bullet wounds in both cities.
In Kinshasa, tires were set on fire with smoke billowing into the air. The crowds threw stones at police.
The demonstrators are opposed to a revised election law that could delay elections until next year. Under the changes, a nationwide census would be carried out before elections, potentially delaying them by years.
The government of President Joseph Kabila says the census is a necessary part of the electoral process in the country of 65 million. Critics, however, have labeled the reform a “constitutional coup.”
The bill containing the changes was approved over the weekend by the lower house of parliament, and proceeds to the senate for examination.
This Monday, January 19, 2015, most of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in turmoil. The civilian population has been on the streets from the West in the capital city of Kinshasa to the east in cities such as Bukavu in spite of Joseph Kabila’s police brutally attacking and repressing the people from exercising their right to protest. And, according to the UN’s MONUSCO’s media outlet, Radio Okapi, Martin Kobler, the UN special representative, has deplored the killing of civiliansby Joseph Kabila’s forces.
The Congolese people are marching in order to stop Joseph Kabila from changing the Congolese constitution so that he can remain in power past December 2016, the end of his second and last term as prescribed by the DRC constitution. Since last year, the United States through its Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama’s special envoy to the African Great Lakes and to the DRC, former Senator Russ Feingold, have frankly told Joseph Kabila that the US will not support nor accept that he changes the DRC constitution for him to stay on as president of the DRC. France, England, the EU, and the UN all have told him the same thing.
Yet, Joseph Kabila, backed by his mentors Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, has been doing everything to go against the wishes of the Congolese people as well as against the advice of these governments and institutions. So, now, he has come up with a scheme that will allow him to remain in power way beyond 2016.