Congo DR set to release prisoners in January

Democratic Republic of Congo say it is set to release about 2,000 prisoners this month in a bid to calm political tension at the start of an election year and reduce overcrowding in jails.

This was made known by the Minister of Justice speaking on behalf of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday.

Human rights groups welcomed the announcement but criticized the government for ignoring scores of prisoners they say have been detained for accusing President Joseph Kabila of trying to stay in power after his mandate ends in December.

Kabila became President in 2001, won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011 and has yet to outline his political future.

Justice Minister, Alexis Thambwe said about 1,200 low-level offenders who have served at least one-quarter of their sentences and received approval from the prison director and prosecutor-general would be freed in the coming weeks.

About 800 additional prisoners are to be released following pardons granted last week by Kabila to all prisoners over 70 and who have not committed serious crimes and to members of a separatist religious movement.

Congo, Africa’s leading copper producer, has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960.
Thambwe said the measures were aimed at reducing tension before a Presidential election scheduled for November and a national dialogue to be held in advance.

Reuters/Aisha JM