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In a televised address on Thursday night, Democratic Republic of Congo President, Félix Tshisekedi, announced a gradual and progressive reduction of restrictions in two conflict-hit areas of the country.
A “state of siege” was imposed in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri in May 2021 to suppress unrest in the region.
This exceptional measure restricted public freedoms and replaced the civil administration with military and police officials. However, the move has done little to contain the many militias destabilising the region.
Now, just months before general elections scheduled for 20 December, in which he is seeking re-election, Tshisekedi said they would be eased.
This includes the lifting of a curfew, restoring the right to peaceful demonstration and assembly, and allowing the free movement of goods and people.
He said this was important so that the various players involved in the electoral process could participate fully and without hindrance.
The transitional arrangement, Tshisekedi said, will see the civilian authority re-established “in the decentralised and deconcentrated territorial entities that are already secure and under the control of the DRC Armed Forces”.
His administration has had to deny allegations by rights groups and international allies of a crackdown on freedom of expression and political dissent.
The eastern part of the DRC has been plagued by violence from local and foreign armed groups for nearly 30 years.
Swathes of territory in North Kivu have been occupied since last year by the M23 rebellion and after six months of precarious calm, fighting against the rebels resumed in October.
But in his message on Thursday night, Tshisekedi says security had improved in some areas of the two provinces.