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The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concerns over the arrest and sentencing of activist Jacky Ndala to two years in prison for ‘inciting civil disobedience’.

Development Diaries reports that Ndala, fined CDF500,000, was arrested on 18 July, 2021, by the operatives of Congo’s National Intelligence Agency.

Before his arrest, Ndala had called for a national protest against the Tshiana or ‘conglite’ bill.

The bill, if passed by the nation’s legislature, will exclude any Congolese citizen with one parent of non-Congolese origin from running for presidential office and other senior institutional positions.

The bill, which is being championed by an ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, was introduced to parliament with supporters saying it sought to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and prevent foreign meddling.

However, the opposition says the bill undermines the rights of Congolese citizens with immigrant parents and sought to exclude Moise Katumbi, a millionaire businessman and former regional governor, from running for the presidency in 2023. Katumbi’s father was Greek.

According to HRW, the bill will undermine the human rights of many Congolese if passed into law.

‘This draft nationality law would discriminate against many Congolese citizens because of their parents’ nationality, further undermining human rights in the country’, HRW said in a statement.

‘The bill is widely seen as an attempt to sideline Moise Katumbi, who heads the Together for the Republic party.

‘Although the party is currently part of President Felix Tshisekedi’s government, Katumbi himself is considered to be one of Tshisekedi’s potential opponents for the next general election in 2023’.

HRW also argued that Ndala’s sentencing by a Kinkole peace court was aimed at subduing Tshisekedi’s critics.

‘Authorities may prosecute incitement to violence. But a rushed trial and harsh sentence suggest that the case was more about the mounting repression against dissent than a genuine matter of public order’, the human rights organisation noted.

‘Parliament should reject a draft nationality law that will entrench discrimination among Congolese citizens and fuel political unrest’.

In 2018, former President Joseph Kabila’s administration barred Katumbi from reentering the country to register his candidacy, denying him his right to run for president.

Kinshasa’s archbishop, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, has described the bill as ‘an instrument of exclusion and division’.

Also, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, Bintou Keita, has warned the UN Security Council of ‘potentially dangerous consequences of a divisive debate on nationality’.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Photo source: Jacky Ndala

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