Senator Markey Applauds Passage of Bipartisan Resolution Calling on Democratic Republic of Congo to Hold Constitutionally-Mandated Presidential Elections in 2016
Washington (September 15, 2016) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Africa and Global Health Policy Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded passage this week of a bipartisan Senate Resolution encouraging the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ensure a peaceful democratic transition of power by holding constitutionally-mandated presidential election in 2016. In 2006, DRC adopted a new constitution that limits the president to two consecutive terms. Despite this constitutional mandate, the current president of DRC, Joseph Kabila, who has already served two terms, has refused to publicly affirm that he will step down when his term is over, and his government has undertaken a number of actions that many observers regard as blatant attempts to delay elections from taking place on time.
Other senators co-sponsoring the resolution include Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
“It is time for President Kaliba to publicly affirm that he will step down when his term is over at the end of this year,” said Senator Markey. “The result of President Kabila’s obstruction is the undermining of DRC’s democracy. The Congolese government must not abandon the commitments it has made to the Congolese people under their constitution nor should it engage in human rights violations and violence against those who support presidential term limits.”
In May, Senators Markey, Durbin and Murphy introduced SRes. 479 calling for the imposition of targeted sanctions against officials in the DRC for human rights violations and for undermining DRC’s democratic processes. In February, Senator Markey sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry encouraging him to consider imposing targeted sanctions on DRC government officials if they failed to meet clear benchmarks for holding free and fair elections in time for a transition by the end of 2016.
Text of Senate Resolution resolution is below:
To encourage the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to abide by constitutional provisions regarding the holding of presidential elections in 2016, with the aim of ensuring a peaceful and orderly democratic transition of power.
Whereas the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) have a partnership grounded in economic development, investment, and mutual interests in security and stability, and marked by efforts to address the protracted humanitarian crisis facing the DRC;
Whereas, in 2006, the Government of the DRC adopted a new constitution with a provision limiting the President to two consecutive terms;
Whereas the constitution requires that elections be held in time for the inauguration of a new president on December 19, 2016, when the current presidential term expires;
Whereas events in the DRC over the last year and a half have called into serious question the commitment of the Government of the DRC to hold such elections on the required timeline, and President Joseph Kabila has not publicly committed to stepping down at the end of his term;
Whereas security and intelligence officials of the DRC have arrested, harassed, and detained peaceful activists (such as Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala), members of civil society, political leaders, and others, and international and domestic human rights groups have reported on the worsening of the human rights situation in the DRC;
Whereas there are 12 presidential elections slated to take place on the continent of Africa by the end of 2017, and what transpires in the DRC will send an important message to leaders in the region;
Whereas President Barack Obama spoke with President Kabila on March 31, 2015, and “emphasized the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the Constitution of the DRC and protect the rights of all DRC citizens”;
Whereas, on March 30, 2016, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2277, which expresses deep concern with “the delays in the preparation of the presidential elections” in the DRC and “increased restrictions of the political space in the DRC” and calls for ensuring “the successful and timely holding of elections, in particular presidential and legislative elections on November 2016, in accordance with the Constitution”;
Whereas many observers have expressed concern that failure to move ahead with elections in the DRC could lead to violence and instability inside the DRC, which could reverberate throughout the region;
Whereas, on June 23, 2016, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions against General Céléstin Kanyama, the Congolese National Police (PNC) Provincial police commissioner for Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC; and
Whereas the Department of the Treasury noted that these sanctions send a “clear message that the United States condemns the regime’s violence and repressive actions, especially those of Céléstin Kanyama, which threaten the future of democracy for the people of the DRC”: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) expresses concern with respect to the failure of the DRC to take actions required to hold elections in November 2016 as required by the Constitution of the DRC;
(2) recognizes that impunity and lack of effective rule of law undermine democracy, and that the arrest and detention of civil society activists and the harassment of political opponents close political space and repress peaceful dissent;
(3) reaffirms its support for democracy and good governance in sub-Saharan Africa;
(4) calls on the Government of the DRC and all other parties to respect the Constitution of the DRC and to ensure a free, open, peaceful, and democratic transition of power as constitutionally required;
(5) urges the Government of the DRC to demonstrate leadership and commitment to elections by accelerating concrete steps towards holding elections, including voter registration and protecting partisan political speech and activities;
(6) encourages the Government of the DRC and all other relevant parties to engage now in a focused, urgent discussion to advance the electoral process and reach consensus rapidly on the way forward by establishing a detailed electoral calendar for all elections and enabling the candidate selection and campaign process; and
(7) urges the President of the United States, in close coordination with regional and international partners, to—
(A) continuously verify that such necessary technical dialogue occurs and proceeds in a time and manner required to ensure the conduct of timely elections;
(B) use appropriate means to ensure these objectives, which may include imposition of additional targeted sanctions on individuals or entities responsible for violence and human rights violations and undermining democratic processes in the DRC at any point in the process; and
(C) continue United States policy with respect to providing support for the organizing of free, fair, and peaceful national elections.