Political candidates and their supporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo should not incite violence and should refrain from using hate speech during the upcoming election campaign, Human Rights Watch said. Congo is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 28, 2011.
Since March, Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of instances of apparent ethnic hate speech and incitement to violence by political candidates and their supporters. Police have also used unnecessary or excessive force against political demonstrations. The verbal and physical assaults, primarily against opposition candidates and their supporters, have created a climate of fear in some areas and raised concerns about the credibility of the elections.
“Candidates who incite violence could provoke a bloody election campaign, and judicial authorities need to step in to stop it,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Anyone aspiring to government office should also recognize the grave dangers of using hate speech.”
The official campaign begins on October 28 for what will be only the second democratic elections since Congo gained independence in 1960. President Joseph Kabila is vying for a second term against 10 other presidential candidates. Nearly 19,000 candidates are competing for 500 parliamentary seats.