DRC protests against Kabila third term
DRC opposition supporters gather in Kinshasa on 15 September 2015 after violent clashes broke out when a rally was attacked by youths hurling stones, sparking a lynching attempt and a police crackdownJunior Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

Campaigners are calling for the immediate release of at least 20 activists and political opponents who have been imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after opposing President Joseph Kabila's attempts to prolong his time in office.

Although the president is bound by the constitution to step down in December 2016 as he has served two consecutive terms since 2001, opposition groups have accused him of trying to postpone the November 2016 election and amend term limits.

Since January, a number of opposition leaders, who have called for mass protests, have been the target of arbitrary arrests and at times "unlawful" detention after speaking out against Kabila, participating in demonstrations or other political activities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Here, IBTimes UK looks at the people behind the names.

Vano Kalembe Kiboko: Former member of parliament from Kabila's majority coalition, arrested on 29 December, 2014, after publicly criticizing violent police repression of a demonstration in Katanga Province and attempts to allow Kabila to seek a third term. Detained at Kinshasa's central prison. Convicted and sentenced to three years in prison on 14 September for racial hatred and tribalism and "spreading false rumours". Appeals proceedings ongoing.

Jean-Claude Muyambo: President of the Congolese Solidarity for Democracy and Development (Solidarité congolaise pour la démocratie et le développement, SCODE) political party and former president of the bar association in Katanga, arrested in Kinshasa on 20 January after mobilizing participation in the demonstrations against proposed changes to the electoral law. Held at Kinshasa's central prison, then transferred to a health clinic, where he is being treated for injuries he suffered during arrest. On trial for "abuse of confidence" and selling a building that did not belong to him, likely based on a complaint that a client brought against him in 2002 – and later withdrew – in his home province of Katanga.

Christopher Ngoyi: Human rights defender involved in mobilizing public participation in demonstrations against proposed changes to the electoral law, arrested on 21 January, and held by the ANR (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, a government intelligence agency) for 20 days before being transferred to Kinshasa's central prison, where judicial proceedings are ongoing.

Ernest Kyaviro: Opposition political party leader arrested in Goma on 22 January, during the week of demonstrations against proposed changes to the electoral law. Transferred to Kinshasa and held at the ANR for 86 days before being transferred to Kinshasa's central prison on 15 April. Convicted and sentenced to three years in prison on 18 September for provoking and inciting disobedience toward public authorities. Appeals proceedings ongoing.

Political protests in DRC
Protests in Kinshasa against President Joseph Kabila's bid to extend his hold on powerPapy MulongoAPY/AFP/Getty

Fred Bauma: Activist with Filimbi (Youth for a new society), a pro-democracy youth group encouraging Congolese youngsters to peacefully and responsibly perform their civic duties, and LUCHA (La Lutte pour le Changement or Struggle for Change, a youth movement). Arrested on 15 March and held at the ANR for 50 days before being transferred to Kinshasa's central prison, where judicial proceedings are ongoing.

Yves Makwambala: Filimbi activist arrested on 15 March and held at the ANR for 40 days before being transferred to Kinshasa's central prison, where judicial proceedings are ongoing.

Léon Nguwa: University of Kinshasa student arrested in March while printing flyers supporting opposition leader Vital Kamerhe, during his trial at the Supreme Court. Reportedly transferred to the prosecutor's office in early December after being held for nearly nine months at the ANR.

Joël Bokoru: University of Kinshasa student arrested in March while printing flyers supporting Kamerhe. Reportedly transferred to the prosecutor's office in early December after being held for nearly nine months at the ANR.

Giresse Bangomisa: University of Kinshasa student arrested in March while printing flyers supporting Kamerhe. Reportedly transferred to the prosecutor's office in early December after being held for nearly nine months at the ANR.

Junior Mapeke N'Labu ("Radek Supreme"): Congolese musician arrested in May and accused of having links with Filimbi. Held at the ANR without charge or access to lawyers.

Jerry Olenga: Member of the opposition FONUS (Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarité or Innovative Forces for Union and Solidarity) political party, arrested on 4 November after attending a news conference by the party's president. Transferred to Kinshasa's central prison after being detained for a month at the ANR.

Paulin Lody: Member of the opposition FONUS political party, arrested on 4 November after attending the news conference by the party's president. Transferred to Kinshasa's central prison after being detained for a month at the ANR.

Read more: Political opponents to President Kabila threatened

"We are very concerned about the political repression in DRC, and are calling on the Congolese government to take urgent action to reverse this troubling trend and send strong signals in releasing political prisoners before it potentially gets worse," Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at HRW, told IBTimes UK from Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province.

Police responsible for rights abuses

In the past, Congolese policemen have been held responsible for ill treating the civilian population and significant human rights abuses. In September, a military court commuted a senior police officer's death sentence over the 2010 murder of leading rights activist, Floribert Chebeya, and his driver, Fidele Bazana.

The renowned founder of the association Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), Chebeya was found dead in his car on the outskirts of Kinshasa on 2 June 2010, a day after he was driven to police headquarters for an appointment with the chief of police, General John Numbi.

On appeal, the Supreme Military Court reduced Colonel Daniel Mukalay's sentence to 15 years in prison and acquitted another officer, Captain Michel Mwila, who had been facing a life sentence. The court upheld the acquittal of three other officers. Bazana also vanished but his body has never been found. During the first trial, the court concluded that the driver had also been murdered.

Read more: Democratic Republic of Congo Up Close