Moise Katumbi
Moise KatumbiREUTERS/Kenny Katombe/File Photo/File Photo

The American Jewish Congress condemned an attempt by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ban a presidential candidate for having a Jewish father, warning that it could set a dangerous precedent for discriminating against Jews in Africa.

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.

Katumbi was born to a Congolese mother and a Jewish refugee father.

In response to the discriminatory “Tshiani Law,” American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen said in a 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.”

He described the law as “clearly an underhanded attempt to target and remove a popular rival from the political scene” by Tshisekedi.

“Last summer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a powerful statement in Kinshasa [Congo’s capital] that highlighted the importance of democracy in the DRC,” Rosen said.

“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.”

He called the attack on democracy in the DRC “disturbing” and described the legislation as antisemitic.

“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?”

He warned that the legislation could unleash a wave of antisemitism in Africa.

“The campaign against Katumbi threatens to spark antisemitism on a continent that has often been mercifully free of it,” he said. “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.“