Time for Free and Fair Elections in DRCPress Release
Washington, D.C. – In advance of next month’s scheduled elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the House of Representatives today passed the Democratic Republic of the Congo Democracy and Accountability Act (H.R. 6207), which promotes free and fair elections in the DRC and holds accountable those who impede the democratic process.
On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Ed Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“I rise in support of H.R. 6207, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Democracy and Accountability Act. I would like to thank Reps. Smith and Bass, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Africa Subcommittee, as well as Ranking Member Engel, for their work on this bipartisan legislation.
Long overdue elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are scheduled for December 23, 2018. But we all know that simply holding elections is not enough.
President Kabila already has remained in power two years past his constitutional mandate. And while I’m pleased that he will reportedly step aside, the corruption of the Kabila government runs much deeper than just the presidency. Government officials and security forces continue to use their positions of power to undermine the election and stoke instability.
Peaceful protests have been met with violence, mass arrests and even torture. New reports of abuse and intimidation against journalists and activists by government forces emerge every day.
Meanwhile, arbitrary legal impediments have barred prominent opposition candidates from running. The government insists on using untested and confusing voting machines, leaving the election vulnerable to vote manipulation and rigging.
Throughout all of this, the government continues to boycott international efforts to support election preparations and increase humanitarian assistance, and continues to deny – in the face of serious and mounting evidence – that there is a problem.
The people of the Congo are suffering and the humanitarian situation is dire. Over 4 million Congolese are internally displaced. More than 13 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, including 7 million facing acute food insecurity. And another Ebola outbreak is threatening the lives of thousands.
We know that government security forces are responsible for horrific human rights abuses and for provoking instability across the DRC. Just last year, two researchers were killed investigating human rights abuses in the DRC. One of these researchers was an American. The government continues to block efforts to fully investigate and hold individuals accountable. This cannot stand.
The U.S. must be fully engaged in support of the Congolese people and their struggle to freely choose their next leader. This legislation we are considering today is a call to action. It requires a determination on individuals responsible for undermining peace and security, impeding the democratic process, committing human rights violations and engaging in corruption so that they can be sanctioned.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen this sad situation before in the DRC. We have seen instability and conflict spill into neighboring countries and undermine the entire region. We cannot let this cycle continue, and a failed election in December would surely inflame the violence. This is why we must take decisive action to hold individuals accountable and ensure free and fair elections this December.
I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.”