New DR Congo president Felix Tshisekedi pardoned three prominent political prisoners and 700 regular ones, state TV reported, a goodwill gesture signalling a break with his predecessor who jailed scores of opponents.
The president freed opposition figures Franck Diongo, Diomi Ndongala and Firmin Yangambi, imprisoned on charges including insurrection against the Congolese state under former president Joseph Kabila. Diongo was sentenced to five years for detaining three soldiers during protests in 2016.
Tshisekedi took over from Kabila after a December 30 election that saw Democratic Republic of Congo’s first transfer power at the ballot box since independence in 1960.
The measures signal a departure from Kabila’s 18-year rule, the latter years of which were characterised by crackdowns on political dissent.
Scores of opposition politicians and activists were arrested in 2016, the year Kabila’s legal mandate ran out and many called for him to go.
Rights groups called the charges politically motivated.
The pardons might go some way towards allaying fears Tshisekedi is to some extent a front for Kabila interests. Supporters of opposition candidate Martin Fayulu and some independent observers rejected December’s election results as a stitch-up based on a deal between Tshisekedi and Kabila, a charge their camps deny.
More than a hundred political prisoners still remain jailed in Congo and rights groups called for all to be released.