US urges DR Congo to allow human rights researcher to return

Washington – The United States urged the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday to allow the return of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher forced to leave the country.

The State Department said it was "very concerned by the government of the Democratic Republic of (the) Congo's decision not to renew the visa" of Ida Sawyer, who has worked for the US-based rights group in DR Congo since 2008.

"The forced departure of this researcher... is incompatible with efforts to support greater transparency, accountability and democracy in the DR Congo," State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said.

The United States is urging the country's authorities "to allow the Human Rights Watch senior researcher to resume her important work... without delay."

DR Congo announced on Tuesday that Sawyer's visa would not be renewed, giving no reason for a decision that effectively expels her.

Authorities had informed Sawyer on Monday that she had 48 hours to leave the country.

Sawyer has carried out research across the country, as well as in parts of neighbouring countries occupied by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

Highly active in DR Congo, HRW regularly denounces human rights violations there.

Political tensions have risen as President Joseph Kabila nears the end of his term in December after 15 years in power.

Although the constitution bars him from standing for re-election, opposition leaders suspect he is manoeuvring to cling to power, possibly by delaying presidential polls set for the end of the year.

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