The Republic of the Congo is a parliamentary republic in which the constitution, promulgated in 2015, vests most decision-making authority and political power in the president and prime minister. In 2015 citizens adopted a new constitution by a 94 percent vote, but in a controversial process boycotted by much of the opposition. The opposition and international community questioned the credibility of the referendum process and results. The new constitution changed previous maximum presidential term limits from two terms of seven years to three terms of five years and provided complete immunity to former presidents. In April 2016 the Constitutional Court proclaimed the incumbent, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, winner of the March 2016 presidential election with 60 percent of the vote and almost 69 percent voter turnout. Domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), opposition candidates, foreign governments, and international organizations questioned the validity of the results and cited electoral irregularities. The government held the most recent legislative and local elections in July for 143 of the national assembly’s 151 seats, for 1,158 local seats, and 66 of the senate’s 72 seats. While the country has a multiparty political system, members of the president’s Congolese Labor Party (PCT) and its allies retained almost 90 percent of legislative seats, and PCT members occupied almost all senior government positions.
Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by security services; disappearances; harsh detention conditions; arbitrary arrests and the holding of political prisoners; lack of due judicial process; infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; abuses in internal conflict including killings of civilians, sexual violence, and restriction of relief supplies; restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association; abuses related to the harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants; restrictions on the ability of citizens to change their government peacefully; restrictions on the activities of opposition political groups; corruption on the part of officials and lack of transparency; violence against women, including rape; domestic violence, child abuse and early marriage with little government action to enforce accountability against perpetrators; and trafficking in persons.
The government seldom took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and official impunity was a problem.
Conflict in the Pool region involving government security forces and the Nsiloulou faction of the Ninja militia, known as “Ninja/Nsiloulou” militia continued during the year. The conflict displaced more than 81,000 persons. These antigovernment Ninja militia committed human rights abuses and failed to protect civilians in conflict zones. The government’s military operations sought to hold perpetrators accountable for alleged abuses, although there was no information on judicial actions to investigate, prosecute, or punish perpetrators of these actions.