Former U.S. Ambassador Herman Cohen warns that Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may be the next African nation to head into “a major internal conflagration” if Congolese President Joseph Kabila fails to step down at the end of his term in December.
“The Congolese people are clearly looking for political change,” Cohen concludes, anticipating the mass demonstrations planned if Kabila fails to leave.
Those public protests include one set for Saturday, in which popular opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi is expected to advance his coalition’s demand for elections. The DRC National Police have warned Congolese about participating in the rally.
Cohen, an international consultant and author on African affairs, published an open letter to Kabila on Thursday, urging him to make way for democratic elections while warning of dire consequences. That letter was dated on October 17.
“Let’s not forget that the Congo is part of Central Africa’s “Great Lakes Region” that has witnessed three major ethnic genocides in the past forty years: Burundi 1972; Rwanda 1994; and the Congo 1996,” said Cohen, whose letter appears on the independent Diplomatic Courier website.
The United Nations OHCHR also has appealed to DRC to lift the ban on Kinshasa demonstrations put in place on September 22, calling it an unjustified compromise of the ever-shrinking democratic space in the nation.
Human rights organizations and opposition parties bear the brunt of the repression, said Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, in a joint statement.
Image: DRC President Joseph Kabila