Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo briefly detained a prominent opposition leader on Sunday, the government said, two days before a general strike to pressure President Joseph Kabila to step down from office.
Kabila is required by the constitution to stand aside in December after 15 years in power. Critics accuse him of trying to delay a presidential vote due in November in order to stay in office. Dozens died in protests over this issue last year.
Martin Fayulu, president of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECIDE) party and one of the organizers of Tuesday’s strike, was held briefly for “incitation to public disorder”, government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters, declining to elaborate further.
Mende said Fayulu was released after a few hours because of his immunity as a national deputy. Investigators will transfer his dossier to parliament, which could authorize judicial proceedings against him, he added.
Mende declined to say who had detained Fayulu.
The director of the U.N.’s Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in Congo, Jose Maria Aranaz, confirmed Fayulu’s release on Sunday evening, adding he had been detained by Congo’s military intelligence service.
Opposition leaders have called for all Congolese people to stay at home on Tuesday. It is not clear how well observed the strike is likely to be.
“It’s the same pattern of intimidation contrary to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in the constitution,” said Aranaz.
The United Nations said in a report in December that a crackdown on political dissent, including summary executions and arbitrary detentions, would likely undermine the credibility of upcoming elections.