Congo Bill Sparks Outrage Over Attempts To Bar Candidate Based On Jewish Parentage

By BJLife Israel Newsroom
Posted on 03/31/23

Jerusalem, March 31 - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has recently come under scrutiny following the introduction of a new bill that seeks to block a presidential candidate with a Jewish father. The bill, dubbed the "Tshiani Law," is named after its proponent, Noël Tshiani. The controversial bill on nationality has been considered by the opposition as a means of blocking the way for Moise Katumbi, the leading candidate in the 2023 presidential election and who is considered to have the best chance of defeating the incumbent president. The bill, introduced by an ally of current president Felix Tshisekedi, states that only candidates with two Congolese parents are eligible to run for president.

The same bill was rejected almost two years ago, but it has now returned to the debate in the DRC, where presidential elections are scheduled for December. The proposal has sparked outrage as it seeks to exclude a presidential candidate based on his Jewish heritage. National deputies were surprised to discover this week that Tshiani's bill is included in the calendar of the current ordinary session.  

Moise Katumbi is the only candidate who does not meet the new criteria, as his father, Nissim Soriano, was a Greek Sephardic Jew who settled in Congo’s Katanga province and married the granddaughter of the local King Msiri. Katumbi is a Congolese businessman and political leader who has a strong chance of winning the presidential election. His grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, and his father fled Rhodes to settle in Congo. In his later years, Soriano emigrated to Israel, where he lived until his death. Katumbi visits Israel often and has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu as part of a delegation of Congolese governors. He was also mentioned as a potential buyer for the Maccabi Netanya Football Club.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, attacked the proposed legislation: "I am appalled by the proposed legislation that would disqualify a leading candidate from running for office based solely on their Jewish heritage. This is an egregious violation of human rights and a dangerous step backward for the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am sure, Congolese citizens will fight against this unjust bill and ensure that all people are able to participate in the electoral process regardless of their background. I call on all who believe in justice and equality to unite in this crucial fight for the future of the DRC and the African continent as a whole."

The "Tshiani Law" has been criticized by the Congolese organization IRDH (Institute for Research in Human Rights) for being "contrary to several constitutional provisions". The organization has called for the National Assembly to vote on a "motion of preliminary rejection" due to what it sees as the "temerity" of the bill's authors. According to IRDH, there is no need to deliberate on the bill's merits as it is fundamentally flawed and unconstitutional.