Critics of President Joseph Kabila’s government are challenging the election of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the 47-member Geneva-based council. The country – beset by renewed political and militia violence since Kabila refused to step down in December – won 151 votes. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said Congo’s election harmed the credibility of the body.
SHOWS: KINSHASA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (OCTOBER 17, 2017) (REUTERS) – In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa residents were surprised by news that the country was among 15 countries elected to the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term on Monday (October 16), in light of the country’s own rights record.
The vote by the 193-member General Assembly was also criticized by Britain, the United States and rights groups.
The country – beset by renewed political and militia violence since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down in December – won 151 votes.
“Congo does not deserve this seat, especially given the dark period in which we are currently in when it comes to the violation of human rights in every aspect, whether it’s in terms of elections, or every other level of society, we have no rights in this country,” said one Kinshasa resident, Hugue Kiladi.
“If only the position was something that benefited the population, something that would have an impact on the people of Congo. I can’t even celebrate it because it does not change my life at all, so I see nothing special about this,” added another resident Tumba Dudu.
Human rights activists in Congo called the decision a ‘slap in the face”, citing the country’s poor human rights record.
Congo was plunged into political uncertainty after president Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his second elected term in December sparked protests that killed dozens of people.
Kinshasa has also been fighting insurgents in the Kasai region since August, triggering fears of a wider conflict in the large central African country, a tinderbox of ethnic rivalry and competing claims over mineral resources.
In June, the United Nations opened an investigation into killings in central DRC – that a militia linked to the government has committed a string of ethnically-motivated attacks in recent months, including cutting off toddlers limbs and stabbing pregnant women.
Kinshasa has repeatedly denied that security forces systematically use excessive force.
George Kapiamba is the president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice.
“We were deeply offended by the vote, and this comes after the human rights commission itself released a resolution to put Congo on notice until 2019, because the issue of human rights in the country remains worrying,” said Kapiamba.
To ensure geographical representation, states are nominated in five regional categories. Four slates were uncontested, while there were five candidates for four Asia Pacific seats in which Malaysia lost.
Council members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. The council is able to rebuke governments it deems as violating human rights and to order investigations.
Congo says its new position is a vote of confidence and an opportunity to contribute towards the fight for human rights.
“We hope that our fellow COngolese brothers will join us and support our country in this new task to fight for human rights, not just in Congo but throughout UN member countries as well,” said Andre Alain Atundu Liongo, a spokesperson for Congo’s ruling presidential majority.
A resurgence in violence in eastern and central Congo has displaced over 1.5 million in the past year and revived fears of civil war in a country where conflicts from 1996-2003 resulted in millions of deaths and spawned dozens of armed groups that prey on local populations and exploit natural resources.