Congo : Call for the Respect of the Freedom to Peacefully Protest in the Democratic Republic of Congo

République Démocratique du Congo - Photo : Kurious (source : pixabay.com)
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By CNRJ – RDC | First publication | Revue LSU #32, mars 2016

Kinshasa, February 15, 2016 – A coalition of 135 Congolese organizations working for the respect of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo calls on the Congolese authorities to take urgent measures to ensure that the right to peaceful protest and to expressing non-violent viewpoints is respected without any discrimination based on political affiliation.

The coalition is deeply concerned by the authorities’ increasing and systematic prohibition of peaceful demonstrations or political meetings by the opposition or civil society organizations that want to defend the constitution or the Republic’s laws, while those organized by the ruling party or its allies take place without obstruction.

The coalition worries also about the brutal repression by the National Congolese Police, the Republican Guard, and the Congolese army during previous demonstrations organized by the opposition and civil society organizations.

Since January 2015, political, police, and judicial authorities have tried to keep the population in fear by banning or brutally repressing public meetings and demonstrations, and arresting the participants they wrongly accused of instigating trouble, regardless of the nature of their demands.

During a public demonstration organized on November 28, 2015 in the city of Goma by young non-violent protestors with the aim of drawing authorities’ attention to massacres committed in Beni, police dispersed them using tear gas and by firing real bullets in the air… Overall, one person was injured and twelve others were arrested during this heavy intervention. Nine people, two of whom are members of the Struggle for Change (La Lutte pour le Changement, LUCHA), are still detained in the prison of Goma and face unfounded charges of inciting public disobedience, among others.

On January 18, 2016, in the middle of Lubumbashi, police officers and heavily armed military stormed the Place de la Poste in order to prevent a rally organized by the G7 – an umbrella organization of opposition parties. They had decided to pray for peace in DR Congo for two minutes in response to a campaign launched by a former governor who recently became part of the opposition.

In Kinshasa, on January 19, 2016, several meetings and ceremonies were prohibited, and a large number of organizers were summoned for questioning or intimidated by police officers. These debates on democratic change, which were to be held in churches or venues in each of Kinshasa’s communes to commemorate victims killed or injured during protests against the revision of the electoral law in the week of January 19, 2015, were arbitrarily prevented from taking place by the security forces. The judicial system is being used as an instrument of repression.

The national and international laws leave no doubt as to the right of Congolese to demonstrate peacefully: article 26 of the Constitution stipulates in its first paragraph that “the freedom of demonstration is guaranteed.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights further stipulates in article 19 that:

“everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The organizations which are signatories to this statement reaffirm their commitment to the defense of public freedoms and to the unequivocal respect for the laws which govern the DR Congo’s security services, especially during this pre-electoral period.

They will raise awareness among the population, and among the law enforcement officers and their hierarchies (police, military, and other members of the security services) on:

  • The citizens’ constitutional rights and obligations;
  • The law enforcement officers’ role during demonstrations or public meetings;
  • How to improve the relationship between citizens and law enforcement officers during the period of public demonstrations.

The signatory organizations recommend :

  • To the Government: to ensure the protection of the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination;
  • To the judicial authorities: to play their role as protector of the citizens’ rights and to not be used as an instrument of repression;
  • To the international community: to impose targeted sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights violations, such as asset freezes or travel bans;
  • To the young Congolese and social groups: to exercise the freedom to protest, without violence and without attacking public or private goods, on the one hand; and to refuse any youth recruitment by political parties to disperse demonstrations by other political and social groups, on the other hand.
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A propos de Jean Claude Buuma 4 Articles
Président ONG CNRJ Congo

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