DR Congo president pledges amnesty for political prisoners

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Recently elected DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi pledged on Saturday to pardon political prisoners and said he would work for the return of those who had fled abroad for political reasons.

“To consolidate democratic progress in our country, I have decided to make the easing of tensions a major goal during the first 100 days” of his mandate, Tshisekedi told Congolese officials during a ceremony.

“Within 10 days I am going to grant a presidential pardon in favour of political prisoners who have been convicted by a final court judgement,” he said.

The president added that he would have the justice minister order the conditional release of those held for expressing their rights, especially during political rallies held ahead of elections on December 30.

“Along the same lines, I am going to work hard to create the conditions for a rapid return of compatriots who are now abroad for political reasons, so they may exercise their activities within the rule of law and republican institutions,” the President said.

On Wednesday, however, dozens of people were arrested during rights protests in DR Congo, activists said, in an incident likely to pose a fresh challenge for Tshisekedi.

The former opposition leader was inaugurated as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 24, succeeding Joseph Kabila who had led the country since 2001.

It marked the country’s first-ever peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

On Saturday, the new President presented a programme of urgent measures to be taken during the first 100 days of his term while commenting on the nation’s security, political and social situations.

He pledged that the judicial system would be administered “by honest people with irreproachable moral values, prepared to fight corruption” in the second-largest country in Africa.