Kabila, seeking DRC Constitution-breaking 3rd term, has opponent arrested

Africans are getting plenty examples of the truism that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A rash of political leaders, including once admired Rwandan Paul Kagame, are reverting to Constitutional changes to retain power. Some others are employing even more blunt tactics. Like the DRC’s Joseph Kabila who simply had a political opponent arrested by security forces who arrived at the opposition party’s headquarters. Kabila, in power since 2001, succeeded his father Laurent who was assassinated by a child soldier member of his bodyguard. He wants to change the Constitution which as it currently stands requires him to relinquish power this year. Clearly, the lessons of Arab Spring are not being heeded to the south. – Alec Hogg         

By Tom Wilson

(Bloomberg) — Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrested one of the country’s leading opposition leaders, two days before a planned general strike by opponents of President Joseph Kabila, his party said.

Martin Fayulu, president of the Commitment to Citizenship and Development, was detained Sunday afternoon in the capital, Kinshasa, Secretary-General Devos Kitoko said by phone from the city.

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“A group dressed in military fatigues arrived at our party headquarters this afternoon at around 3 p.m. and arrested Fayulu,” Kitoko said. “We don’t know why he was taken or where he was taken to.”

Fayulu was one of a group of political leaders who on Feb. 11 called for a national strike on Feb. 16 to protest against what they say are efforts by Kabila to delay elections and hold on to power. A previous candidate for governor in Kinshasa, Fayulu is a well-known opposition leader in the capital and had been leading efforts to mobilise support for Tuesday’s strike.

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Kabila won elections in Africa’s biggest copper-producing country in 2006 and 2011. The constitution prevents him from running in a presidential vote currently scheduled for November.

The United Nations mission in the Congo confirmed Fayulu had been taken, though it didn’t know whether the arrest was made by the security services, the police or military intelligence. A spokesmen for the government didn’t answer his phones when called for comment, while a spokesman for the national police said he would comment later.

“We know he has been taken,” Jose Maria Aranaz, director of the UN Joint Human Rights Office, said by phone from Kinshasa. “Arresting a national leader is a serious step in the wrong direction confirming worry trends towards the shrinking of the democratic space and the restriction of public freedoms.”

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Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, called the arrest “a very worrying sign.”

“This is the latest example of repression against opposition leaders and others who have called for respect for the constitution and for elections to be held on time,” Ida Sawyer, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the Congo, said by phone from Kinshasa.