United States of America has condemned regional leaders for supergluing in power and undermining rule of law.
The US Ambassador Samantha Power while speaking at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Prevention and Resolution of Conflicts in the Great Lakes Region in New York City on March 21, 2016, made the remarks.
She referred to a court in the Democratic Republic of Congo that ruled on the case of six young activists – five men and a woman – who had been charged with attempting to incite civil disobedience.
They had been arrested eight days earlier at a private home in Goma, at 4:30 in the morning, as they prepared banners for a general strike to protest potential election delays.
They were convicted and sentenced to two years in jail, a term reduced on appeal to six months.
“The DRC is not the only country in the region where civil society is threatened, or where democratic processes are being deliberately undermined,” Power told the conference.
She said this has been the accelerating trend in recent months – evident at the top, where leaders make increasingly blatant power grabs to remain in office; and on the streets, where their governments close media outlets, arrest opposition members, intimidate civil society groups, and otherwise squeeze the political space available for competing views.
“This widening disregard for democratic processes threatens to undermine the political, security, and developmental progress achieved over the last two decades, and it imperils the progress still to come.”
“It defies the ability of citizens to freely choose their leaders and hold them accountable. It drives them into the streets or out of the country. It threatens to plunge communities back into the cycle of poverty and violence from which many are only now beginning to emerge.”
Power acknowledged Rwanda’s economic achievements under President Kagame including doubling of per capita income, international peacekeeping and commitment to civilian protection.
She said despite Rwanda’s progress on economic rights, on women’s rights – on so many development axes – its record on protecting and promoting civil and political rights is less impressive.
Power further acknowledged Uganda as a critical contributor to peace and security and sheltering refugees.
She said, however, after 2016 elections, the government and its security forces detained opposition figures without legal justification, harassed their supporters, and intimidated the media.
“It passed legislation restricting the operations of NGOs, banning them from acting against the “interests of Uganda.””
She said President Museveni’s actions “contravene the rule of law and jeopardize Uganda’s democratic progress, threatening Uganda’s future stability and prosperity”.
Power said Kabila was emulating Museveni and as his term nears its end, this fragile progress is uncertain.
She cited a case in which Kabila is attempting to delay elections so as to overstay in power as well as his government’s attempt to limit its cooperation with the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, in order to force a reduction of troops.
Power used Burundi as an example of the dangers of pursuing personal power over the people’s interests.
“President Nkurunziza’s decision to stay in office in defiance of the Arusha Accords and his crackdown on political opposition have swiftly undone the country’s progress of recent years.”
This is evident in the widespread reports of sexual violence, the more than 400 people who have been killed, the 250,000-plus who have fled the country, and the even-more challenging economic times that unfortunately lie ahead, Power noted.
Of the 2,000 prisoners he pledged to free, just 158 have been released to date – and only 47 of those were political prisoners.
Two of the five radio stations shuttered have been allowed to reopen – but that’s just two of the five – and one of those allowed to reopen is pro-government.
These nations are ready: if they are given the opportunities to fully participate in democratic processes, to hold their leaders accountable, to be subjected to and to benefit from the rule of law, they will not merely survive, they will prosper, Power concluded.