The United States of America condemns the violence that occurred in Kinshasa and other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last night and today, following the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second and final term in office. We also condemn the arrests of numerous opposition party and civil society activists by DRC security forces. We appeal to all sides to refrain from statements or actions that could incite further violence or instability. President Kabila and leaders of GDRC security forces have an obligation to ensure that personnel under their command respect the rights of Congolese citizens to assemble peacefully and express their opinions without fear of retaliation, retribution, or arbitrary arrest.
The United States is greatly disappointed by President Kabila’s failure to organize elections in accordance with the DRC constitution, and continued reluctance to state publicly that he will not run again or seek to change the constitution. We are also disappointed by President Kabila’s unwillingness to take additional steps to reduce political tensions. The sound of people banging pots and pans and blowing whistles and horns throughout Kinshasa as President Kabila’s term in office ended at midnight on December 19 symbolized the Congolese people’s commitment to democracy and democratic principles. It is unfortunate that DRC security forces responded to this expression of democratic sentiment with tear gas, arrests, and warning shots. We remain ready to impose additional sanctions on those – whether government or opposition – who perpetrate violence or impede DRC’s democratic institutions.
We continue to believe that an inclusive political agreement is the only way to stave off additional violence and instability. We urge both the government and opposition to cooperate fully and in good faith with DRCs Conference of Catholic Bishops (CENCO) when discussions resume tomorrow, December 21. For these discussions to succeed, President Kabila must be willing to end politically motivated prosecutions and compromise on language barring him from running again or changing the constitution during the interim period. This is a crucial moment for the Democratic Republic of Congo and its people. Now is the time for President Kabila to affirm his commitment to leading the DRC to its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.
The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa has warned U.S. citizens of the potential for large-scale demonstrations and civil unrest on/around December 19, the date on which President Kabila’s term in office was due to end according to the DRC constitution. We also advised U.S. citizens in the DRC to seriously consider leaving the country in advance of this date. As a result of the security situation, the Department of State ordered family members of U.S. government personnel and authorized non-emergency personnel to depart the country as of December 10, 2016.
The Embassy released a Security Message advising U.S. citizens remaining in the DRC to stay indoors on December 19, avoid demonstrations, have adequate supplies of food, water, and medication on hand, and to establish communication plans with friends and family. The Embassy will continue to update U.S. citizens based developments. The U.S. Embassy remains open. The Embassy will continue to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the DRC, however, services may become more limited if the security situation deteriorates.