Can Congo be called a ‘hell hole of human rights’?

At an informal meeting that was held at the UN Security Council,on February 12, 2018, where Congo was represented by its Foreign Minister She Okitundu and the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) President Corneille Nangaa, concerns were raised over violence and gross violations of human rights following government’s deadly clashes with protesters in the Congo.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley stated that the “Use of excessive force against civilians who simply want a say in their future is against everything the UN is supposed to stand for.”[1]

A young boy jumps through a hole as others peer through the wall of a cell at Muzenze Prison in Goma

A young boy jumps through a hole as others peer through the wall of a cell at Muzenze Prison in Goma

Okitundu’s statements are unfortunate, as they are misleading and, to an extent, mischievous. Given the barbaric and endless violations of human rights that are prevailing in the country, Congo is indeed more equal to a hellhole for human rights than a great democracy, as Okitundu tries to depict it. Even worse, at the 37th ordinary session of the UN Human Rights Council held in Geneva on February 26, 2018, the UN High Commissioner for human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein labelled the DRC, along with Syria and Burundi, “abattoirs of human beings”[2].

 

Having already been considered as one of the greatest human tragedies in the world, with more or less 5 million people dead during the great Congo war of 1998-2003, “the most lethal on any continent in most people’s lifetimes”[3], the continuous killing in the eastern DRC along with 3383 deaths in the Kasaïs’ massacre of 2016-2017 and at least 87 mass graves identified by the UN [4], the DRC is definitely a slaughterhouse like no other.

Mass grave (screenshot from France 24 TV) followingprotest in January 2015 against Kabila’s attempt to amend the Constitution. More than 400 bodies were buried on March 19, 2015, in this Maluku site, 100 kilometers from Kinshasa.

Mass grave (screenshot from France 24 TV) following protest in January 2015 against Kabila’s attempt to amend the Constitution. More than 400 bodies were buried on March 19, 2015, in this Maluku site, 100 kilometers from Kinshasa.

Unlike other constitutional democracies in the world, Joseph Kabila and his government have failed to uphold the constitution and implement the political agreement brokered by the CENCO (National Bishops Conference) on December 31, 2016 (the St Sylvester Agreement). The agreement required particularly that Kabila appoint a prime minister from the opposition, ease political space, liberate political prisoners, and open the opposition radio and television stations, and guarantee freedom of expression and assembly to ensure peaceful elections. Furthermore, Kabila and his government failed to hold credible elections and transfer power by December 31, 2017 in terms of the said agreement.

 

As a result, the Catholic Church, followed by the Catholic Lay Coordination Committee, organized on December 31, 2017, January 21, and February 25, 2018, peaceful protests calling for the full implementation of the St Sylvester Agreement.  In response, Joseph Kabila’s security forces unleashed terror on peaceful protesters, especially in Kinshasa, where they surrounded churches, tear-gassed, beat churchgoers, stole their money and cell phones, and shot live rounds at fleeing congregants. They went as far as undress and arrest priests.[5][6]

 

During the latter peaceful protest in February 2018, Kabila’s security used live bullets that killed at least two people, one in Kinshasa and another in Mbandaka. In addition to the dead, the head of Congo’s UN mission, Leila Zerrougui, said 47 people were injured and more than 100 were arrested across the country. [7]

 

In view of the foregoing, She Okitundu and the government in Kinshasa can hardly convince the world that the behavior of the security forces was within the need to preserve law and order, public security, with respect for individual liberties’ like in many other great democracies. Under a true democracy, security forces marshal peaceful protesters and do not terrorize and slaughter them.

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[1] US, France urge Kabila to publicly bow out of DR Congo vote, http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/us-france-urge-kabila-to-publicly-bow-out-of-dr-congo-vote/article/514694#ixzz57qZ1rVkG

 

 

[2] Syrie, RDC, Burundi: «des abattoirs» selon le chef des droits de l’homme à l’ONU, http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20180226-onu-abattoirs-humains-rdc-burundi-syrie-yemen-zeid-raad-hussein-denonce

 

 

[3] Waiting to erupt – Congo’s war was bloody. It may be about to start again,https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21737021-president-joseph-kabila-seventh-year-five-year-term-he-struggling-hold

 

 

[4] Au Kasaï comme ailleurs en RDC, « le désordre comme art de gouverner » de Joseph Kabila, http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/09/12/au-kasai-comme-ailleurs-en-rdc-le-desordre-comme-art-de-gouverner-de-joseph-kabila_5184530_3212.html

 

 

[5]UN Security Council Should Act on Congo,https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/12/un-security-council-should-act-congo

 

 

[6] Répression en RDC: la Cenco déplore le «bilan macabre», http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20180123-repression-rdc-cenco-deplore-le-bilan-macabre

 

 

[7] At least two killed in crackdown on march against Congo’s Kabila, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-protests/at-least-two-killed-in-crackdown-on-march-against-congos-kabila-idUSKCN1G90DI

 

 

Dominic Kitambala Luwi

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