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110 Amnestied Prisoners Released in DRC

  • Nick Long

FILE - Edem Kodjo, center, a former chairman of the Organization of African Unity, sits with diplomats during the opening of a Congolese political dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, Sept. 1, 2016.

FILE - Edem Kodjo, center, a former chairman of the Organization of African Unity, sits with diplomats during the opening of a Congolese political dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, Sept. 1, 2016.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's government on Friday announced the release of another wave of prisoners in response to demands from opposition parties as a precondition to their involvement in a political dialogue in Kinshasa.

Last week, the government responded by releasing eight pro-democracy activists and another 170 prisoners held for various offenses.

On Friday, the justice minister signed a ministerial order for the release of 110 prisoners found guilty, according to the order, of 'insurrection, acts of war and political offences'.

The news was welcomed Friday by Edem Kodjo, the African Union appointed facilitator of the DRC's political dialogue that started this week.

He told media: " A short while ago I received from the justice minister an order amnestying 110 political prisoners who were already concerned by the amnesty law of 2014. 110 are being released this evening or tomorrow. So we are making progress."

Kodjo said he and others had been lobbying for the release of a number of prisoners whose names has been given to him by a group of opposition parties known as the G7.))

Human Rights Watch said last week that it had documented at least 20 long-term political prisoners who remained in detention in DRC, including leaders of political parties. It was not clear whether any were among the 110 listed for release.

Samy Badibanga, an opposition politician taking part in the dialogue, welcomed the latest releases as proof that the dialogue was achieving results. Each of these measures was positive, he said, adding that he hoped there would be more such measures in the future.

During a dialogue debate Friday, the ruling coalition and opposition maintained opposing positions on the order of upcoming elections. The opposition wants presidential elections to be held first, while the ruling coalition wants local elections held first.

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