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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 15:39 GMT
DR Congo parliament backs amnesty
Congolese President Joseph Kabila waving
Joseph Kabila is thought to be opposed to the move
Democratic Republic of Congo MPs have adopted an amnesty law for crimes and political offences from 1996 to 2003.

The amnesty covers political assassinations but not war crimes.

The clause has upset supporters of President Joseph Kabila, who say the move could benefit those accused of assassinating his father, Laurent.

MPs in President Kabila's party boycotted the National Assembly vote which he still needs to approve for it to come into effect.

The law will apply to "acts of war, political offences and opinions" between August 1996 - when the rebellion against the former ruler President Mobutu Sese Seko began - and June 2003, when the transitional government was set up.

Opponents fear the amnesty could be used to pardon some 30 prisoners condemned to death for their role in the assassination by a bodyguard of President Laurent Kabila.

But supporters say the move is part of the transition from civil war to democratic elections due by June 2006.

When do you think an amnesty should be given? After a period of civil unrest, should all criminal and political offences be forgiven? Should war crimes also be exempt to help reconciliation? Or would such amnesties lead to resentment and possible further unrest?

Let us know your views using the form below.

A selection of them will be broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 3 December at 1700 GMT.

The following comment reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

I am a Congolese citizen living in US and I have some concerns over the adoption of amnesty law in my country Congo. While I recognise the need to have such a law in our country to promote reconciliation, I still believe our lawmakers went too far in including certain crimes. They should consider the gravity of the crime and it consequence on the security of the country regardless of the motive. If that amnesty becomes law, it will be a disaster for the security of Congo because a lot of people who are in jail today deserve to be there and belong there. I don't think Congolese people are ready to forgive those who have committed atrocity and contributed to the insecurity of the country like it is today. Finally, I believe this amnesty law should be discussed after elections because by then, we will have elected MPs who truly represent the will of the people. President Kabila should act within his constitutional rights to block this amnesty law.
Bameleka, Iowa City, USA

Amnesty is a powerful tool that can be used to bring about healing between conflicting groups within a country. Amnesty should be considered as part of the cultures of the people involved so that it has legitimacy and can be understood. Amnesty can be part of a healing process that is critical for long-term forgiveness, but Amnesty cannot stand on its own.
Dave Klassen, Kitchener, Ontario

Amnesty should be given to those who participated or are still participating in a legitimate struggle such as fighting for their rights. However, it should not apply to criminal activities not related to the civil war. It should only be applied to political offences such as speaking out against the government and other political activities. Other serious war crimes and crimes against humanity should and must be punished. Systematic rapes and killings like the ones that took place in the Ituri region, and forced enlistment of child soldiers must be punished. Punishing these crimes will help the DR Congo move from a culture of lawlessness to that of the rule of law where everyone knows their rights and responsibility. I think that it's time that African countries start sending a message that war crimes and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. Holding those who committed serious crimes responsible will server as a deterrent to other potential human rights abusers!
Didier, New York, USA

Reconciliation is the most important steep to improving relationship within a tumultuous country that is still fragile such as DR Congo. With all due respect to the late President Laurent Kabila, we, citizens of the DR Congo must work toward a process of rebuilding this great nation, by focusing extensively on democratic governmental system. Life is all about trade off, nothing comes easy. I personally sympathize with Mr Kabila's family for his loss, while I am looking forward to a bright future as Mr Kabila himself will want to see in DR Congo. Building a new society based on social justice and tolerance is very important for all of us; this is the best way to honour President Kabila's memory. I am appealing to the wisdom of the current President Joseph Kabila to be above the sentiments and feelings, and to see behind what his parliamentary are seeing, to do the right thing for himself and for the country, this is the best way to revere his father's memory as a great leader of a great nation, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mike Boyongo, Washington DC, USA

I would say that no one with blood on his hands should be given amnesty. Every life is precious and amnesty will lead to further resentment and exacerbation in many areas.
Josephat Musyoka Mua, Silver Spring, USA

It is a very delicate and fine balance or rather a catch 22 either way. A threat of punishment may force warlords to hold on to their fiefdom as long as they can to avoid facing up to the consequences of their crimes. This will consequently perpetuate the rebellion. In the meantime, an amnesty would certainly send the wrong signal that there is always one at the end of every rebellion. In fact, it is the knowledge of a guaranteed amnesty, among many other factors that makes these rebels conduct themselves the way they do. The history of DR Congo and Africa is littered with the cycle of rebellion, atrocities against civilians and amnesty.

In an ideal world people should always pay for their actions. Even if those found guilty of atrocities in the DR Congo were to be punished, who is going to chastise them? Even the current government came to power after a rebellion.

People must be empowered to keep those involved in criminality and atrocity out of public office. In the rest of the world, more so in Africa, this is easy said than done.
Papy, London, UK

I do not think that it is a good idea for killers to be given amnesty before we hear what they have to say and tell us what and why they committed the crime. To me this sound like "eating at the same table with the devil" you give them that amnesty today they will do the same next time. Reconciliation is not a better solution in today's world. There is no way you can reconcile with the devil. They did it and what is going to stop them from doing it again?
GUYSLAIN KABEYA, Vancouver -Canada

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