New York, NY, March 31, 2023 – In response to the discriminatory “Tshiani Law” being considered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen released the following statement:

The attempt by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to disqualify Moise Katumbi from running for president is deeply disturbing, not only for those who support democracy worldwide, but also for Jews specifically.

President Felix Tshisekedi is seeking to prevent Katumbi, a prominent and successful politician, businessman, and philanthropist from challenging him by passing the “Tshiani Law,” which would disqualify any candidate without two Congolese parents. Because Katumbi was born to a Congolese mother and a Jewish refugee father, the law is clearly an underhanded attempt to target and remove a popular rival from the political scene.

Last summer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a powerful statement in Kinshasa that highlighted the importance of democracy in the DRC. He said that the country’s commitment to democracy will not only shape its future but that of the entire region. The proposed Tishani Law threatens to undermine these democratic principles when they urgently need to be defended.

This is disturbing enough on its own, but the fact that Katumbi is being targeted because his father is Jewish is also profoundly troubling. While the motivation behind the law may not be antisemitic, it is antisemitic in effect. In particular, it sets a terrible precedent. What does it say to the Congolese people, Congolese children, and Africans in general that an eminently qualified and popular candidate can be banned because he has Jewish ancestry?

The campaign against Katumbi threatens to spark antisemitism on a continent that has often been mercifully free of it. If the Tshiani Law is enacted, there is nothing to stop further discriminatory laws from being passed, and they may forgo any pretense of political motivation and openly target Jewish Africans for persecution. Therefore, I call on President Tshisekedi to suspend the bill and uphold the basic values of tolerance and democracy in the DRC.

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.