• Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party.
    Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party.

The United Nations has called on authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to release the opposition members recently arrested amid a crackdown on dissent by President Joseph Kabila's government.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, made the plea on Monday, a day after Congolese police broke up a meeting by the main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi and arrested 28 supporters.

“I urge the Congolese authorities to release immediately and unconditionally those arbitrarily arrested yesterday in Lubumbashi,” said Maman Sidikou, head of the UN mission.

Sidikou said MONUSCO was "deeply concerned by ongoing acts of intimidation" against opposition members and reminded authorities of their duty to guarantee citizens' rights "in accordance with the constitution and international commitments" of DR Congo.

Reports said the arrests took place on the eve of a return to the city of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi after a long absence. Party sources said 48 were detained.

In a separate incident on Monday, riot police fired teargas canisters to disperse people who had gathered at the city's airport to welcome the opposition leader.

Tensions are high in DR Congo after Kabila did not step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December.

Kabila's presidential term expired on December 19, 2016, but ruling officials have effectively prolonged his mandate until 2018, claiming that the government would not be able to arrange elections before then.

SS

Oct 23, 2017 17:54 UTC
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