Democratic Republic of Congo’s government announced pardons on Friday for 24 people considered political prisoners by the opposition, in a bid to ease tensions ahead of a presidential election set for November.
Opposition leaders had demanded the release of 26 prisoners as a precondition for participation in talks on the election with President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after two terms in office.
"The government ... has decided that we can lift the measures (against them) to allow these people to be immediately liberated with the exception of two cases," Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told a news conference.
Those liberated include youth activists arrested in what the United Nations and human rights groups said was a growing crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of the election.
They include Fred Bauma and Yves Mawkambula, detained on charges of plotting against President Kabila since their arrests at a March 2015 workshop to promote youth participation in politics. The two men not freed are political party leaders accused of sexual assault and real estate fraud respectively.
The African Union facilitator of those talks, former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo, applauded the government’s decision and said the talks would begin next week. There was no immediate comment from the opposition.