Human Rights in Democratic Republic of the Congo

By | April 4, 2021

Human rights are regularly violated by the military, belligerent groups, police and secret services. The prisons are overcrowded and the conditions are often unimaginable. Many prisoners wait months, sometimes years, for an examination of the procedure or for a judicial decision.

National and international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continuously publish reports on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On January 26th, 2019 UN investigators found another 50 mass graves in the west of the country. Disputes over raw materials are repeatedly mentioned as causes. Actors are local communities of the Banuna and Batende. Soldiers and police are intertwined in the conflict; they are both victims and perpetrators.

With the murder of Floribert Chebeya in early June 2010, the most prominent human rights activist and long-standing critic of lawlessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the former Zaire has been silenced. Chebeya was the head of the human rights organization Voix des Sans-Voix – VSV (Voice of the Voiceless) from Kinshasa. Subordinates of the then and later suspended police chief John Numbi were arrested as alleged perpetrators. Numbi, who had initially been arrested for the murder of Chebeya himself, was left unscathed.

Human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been the subject of international criminal proceedings for the first time since the beginning of November 2006. The former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga is accused before the ICC International Criminal Court in The Hague of sending child soldiers into a cruel civil war in 2002 and 2003. The trial was also the first trial before the ICC since it began its work in 2003.

Under Lubanga’s leadership, the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots), which is dominated by the ethnic group, fought against the traditionally hostile militiaLendu ethnic group (supporters of the Front of Nationalists and Integrationists (FNI)).

Germain Katanga, who like Lubanga is one of those warlords who committed massacres and mass rapes in Ituri, in the northeast of the Congo, between 1999 and 2003, was transferred from Kinshasa to The Hague in October 2007. In February 2008, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, the third prisoner on remand, arrived in The Hague. He was chief of staff of the FNI.

In July 2008, the ICC undoubtedly had a really prominent case in Jean Pierre Bemba. He was vice-president of the transitional government, then a presidential candidate (until the runoff elections, which he lost by 42%), and was a senator after the 2006 elections. Bemba was acquitted to a limited extent in January 2015 for lack of evidence.

Child soldiers

One of the worst manifestations of the armed conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the phenomenon of child soldiers. Since the beginning of the armed conflict (1994), almost all warring parties have abused children as soldiers and slaves. The boys are first used as arms bearers and later as fighters, while the girls have to do all domestic work and are sexually abused as they get older.

Only through the intervention of the UN and through many courageous non-governmental organizations as well as courageous men and women was the situation at least contained.

Rape as a weapon of war

Atrocious reports from the war-affected areas describe regular attacks on girls and women, often in the context of mass rape.

The long war has led to brutalization in society. One tries to counter uncontrolled violence through adult education and the development of the educational system. National and international non-governmental organizations and the local churches stand by the girls and women affected. Awareness-raising and peace work is carried out by the United Nations and by national and international experts.

Civil society

Street scene in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Street scene in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The civil society was and is a very important player in the political and social development of the country. During the Mobuto dictatorship and the associated decline of state structures, civil society took over many tasks of the state, especially in the health care system and in school education. For years, church institutions and independent organizations have guaranteed a minimum supply for the population.

The political upheaval – from the Conference Nationale Souveraine (1991 to 1992) to the current debate on national elections – was and is decisively influenced by it to this day.

Civil society changes its line-up and its actions according to the current political, social and economic situation. For example, the decisive elections in December 2018 were significantly influenced by church and cooperative groups as well as by youth organizations, women’s associations and a large number of civil society groups. In cities in particular, the broad political debate waged by civil society has resulted in the prevention of excessive violence.

There is a national and various regional associations of non-governmental organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a major country in African continent according to smartercomputing.