Congo senate amends electoral law to allow 2016 election News
Congo senate amends electoral law to allow 2016 election

[JURIST] The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Senate [official website, in French] on Friday amended the country’s electoral law to permit the 2016 presidential election to go forth as scheduled, without the requirement of conducting a census. The change comes after four days of violent nationwide protests resulted in dozens of deaths [HRW report]. The government argues that the census is essential to a fair election, but the opposition sees the census, which could take years, as a way for President Joseph Kabila [Forbes profile] to stay in office. This move by the senate is seen by many as surprising, as the senate rarely votes against the other branches [BBC report] of the DRC government. The bill will now be sent to the DRC House of Representatives and must be ratified there to become law.

This senate amendment is being seen by many in the DRC as a step toward a well-functioning democracy. However, the DRC has also been the site of considerable human rights abuses committed by both government forces and various rebel groups in the recent past. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Congolese authorities [JURIST report] to bring to justice those who commanded rebel troops to commit killings, rapes, mutilations and child abductions across the DRC. In November HRW released a report accusing police officers in the DRC of executing [JURIST report] 51 youths and causing the disappearance of 33 others.The UN issued a report [JURIST report] in October that addressed the human rights violations taking place in connection with Operation Likofi. In July the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict presented a report outlining the situation of the child in the DRC, which found the recruitment of child soldiers [JURIST report] persists. In June the head of the UN Mission in the DRC strongly condemned [JURIST report] an outbreak of deadly violence in the eastern areas of the DRC, sparked by a confrontation over cattle. In April a coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration urging the DRC to create new mechanisms in its national justice system [JURIST report] for prosecuting war crimes.