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110 Political Prisoners Released in DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Friday announced the release of another wave of prisoners in response to demands from opposition parties as a precondition to their involvement in a political dialogue in Kinshasa.

Last week, the government responded by releasing eight pro-democracy activists and another 170 prisoners held for various offenses.

On Friday, the justice minister signed a ministerial order for the release of 110 prisoners held in connection with political activities.

The names — mainly people from Katanga province — were put forward by a group of political parties known as the G7, according to dialogue facilitator Edem Kodjo.

In previous liberations, there was not a significant number of prisoners from Katanga who were included, Kodjo said.

Leading oppositionist Huit Mulongo, the cabinet director for former Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi, was not listed among the people to be released.

Authorities, however, would deny that Mulango is a political prisoner, as he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment last month for illegal possession of a firearm.

Human Rights Watch said last week that it had documented at least 20 long-term political prisoners who remained in detention in DRC, including leaders of political parties. It was not clear whether any were among the 110 listed for release.

Samy Badibanga, an opposition politician taking part in the dialogue, welcomed the latest releases as proof that the dialogue was achieving results. Each of these measures was positive, he said, adding that he hoped there would be more such measures in the future.

During a dialogue debate Friday, the ruling coalition and opposition maintained opposing positions on the order of upcoming elections. The opposition wants presidential elections to be held first, while the ruling coalition wants local elections held first.


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