On 20 December security forces in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi reportedly opened fire on protestors, killing at least 26 people. There have also been reports of widespread arrests and detention of opposition supporters and human rights defenders. The protests were in response to President Joseph Kabila refusing to step down from office after his constitutional mandate ended on 19 December. While protests on 19 December largely featured “ghost city” activities, with civilians remaining at home, on 20 December demonstrators reportedly took to the streets and set fire to some buildings. The government has blocked social media since 18 December and outlawed social gatherings of more than ten people in order to deter demonstrations. While political tensions in the major cities remain high, populations in eastern DRC also remain at risk of attack by armed groups who may try to take advantage of instability.
The security forces must not use disproportionate and deadly force against peaceful demonstrations. The government should move quickly to deescalate political tensions and restore confidence in the rule of law.
Since 15 December, intermittent evacuations of civilians and opposition fighters from Eastern Aleppo, Syria, have taken place, resulting in an estimated 25,000 people leaving the eastern part of the city. A reciprocal evacuation of Shia civilians from the towns of Foah and Kefraya, besieged by armed opposition groups, is also underway. On 19 December the UN Security Council voted unanimously to request the UN carry out neutral monitoring and observation of the evacuations. The following day the UN reported that it had received authorization to send 20 monitors to Eastern Aleppo. After five years of Security Council failure to halt atrocities in Syria, on 21 December the General Assembly passed a resolution to establish an independent international mechanism to collect evidence of atrocities in Syria, in order to facilitate future prosecutions of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Foreign Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attended talks on 19 December in Burma/Myanmar to discuss ongoing counterinsurgency operations in Arakan/Rakhine state that have targeted the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. Combined military and police operations have resulted in tens of thousands of civilians fleeing to neighboring states, including Bangladesh, Malaysia and China. An unknown number of civilians have been killed. On 4 December Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak alleged that Burma/Myanmar was perpetrating “genocide” against the Rohingya. During Monday’s meeting Malaysia reportedly urged the creation of an independent ASEAN-led investigation into widespread reports of mass arrests, rape and extrajudicial killings of Rohingya, as well as the systematic destruction of mosques and Rohingya villages.