Human rights abuses in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
By Kapele Mutachi
September, 23, 2015
Human rights situation in Eastern DR Congo continues to deteriorate. Serious violations, such as arbitrary executions, sexual violence against women and girls, torture and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment are pervasive, committed mostly by the army, police and intelligence, as well as different local and foreign rebel groups supported by Rwanda and Uganda. The 1996 campaign by Laurent Kabila to depose Mobutu Seseko set off a violent civil war and the extended presence of the Rwandan and Ugandan armies in eastern DR Congo. The conflict is said to be notorious for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, the conscription of child soldiers and the scourge of sexual violence.
The conflict has rocked the country for the past eighteen years, creating insecurity throughout nearly the entire country. The areas most affected are the North and East party of the country, especially the Oriental province, North and South Kivu, and Katanga Province. The conflict has forced hundreds of thousands of Congolese to abandon their homes and to cross borders to find security. The government, army, and police force should exist to protect civilians, that is the vital role that they should play in ensuring peace and stability over national territory. However, the government together with its security establishments is still preying on the same civilians that they are supposed to protect and failing to restore state authority. The failure of the government to put in place an integrated army and territorial reunification have also contributed to the entrenchment of insecurity.
One of the main drivers of conflict in eastern DR Congo is minerals endowment and resources. The inability of the government to control the entirety of its territory has allowed rebel armed forces to exploit these resources and fuel the continuous conflict. Armed groups operating in the country, both foreign and Congolese are also responsible for human rights abuses, perpetrating massacres, arbitrary executions, abductions of villagers, and subjected women to systematic rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence with full impunity.
Civil conflict centered on the eastern borders has plagued the country into its disarray. The country has raged into the highest rates of murder and rape in the world. The conflict has escalated into unperceived violence. The country has been named as “The First Africa’s War and Rape Capital of the World” because of the atrocities and impunity that have been committed by different belligerent. Human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists and members of the political opposition are threatened, harassed and arbitrarily arrested by armed groups and by government security forces. Some are forced to flee after they received repeated death threats through text messages, anonymous phone calls, and visits at night by armed men.
Although constitutionally guaranteed, freedoms of speech and the press are limited. The freedom to express our thoughts without fear is one of our most important freedoms, but this freedom of expression is curtailed, and when people speak out against bad governance, the state uses brutal methods to silence critics. Early this year, the pro-democracy activists were arrested in Goma and Kinshasa following a workshop to promote responsible youth engagement in the democratic process. This tells our people, the current government would likely face an uneasy retirement with the prospect of criminal prosecution for rather poor human rights record.
The government uses an array of regulations and laws to restrict free speech and suppress political criticism, including bringing criminal charges against journalists and shutting down broadcast operations. This is making difficult for journalists to do their work properly. Congo does not have a free press, and people cannot criticize or speak out about corruption that is orchestrated by public servants. A vigorous free press forces politicians and public servants to be accountable, and if it is combined with the power of informed public opinion and independent judiciary is a powerful antidote to government corruption. But, the government has decided to turn its back on human rights by not upholding the constitution of the country that guarantees the rights of all Congolese people in the country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
The constitution of the country requires the government and all employees of the state to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights contained in it. Congolese people are not used to hear about corruption because they do not have a free press that can reveal what is happening in public and private sector. The government covers everything in the sense that brave investigative reporters are not given a chance to dig up all the dirt. In order to effectively address the predicaments that are befalling our people, the government must take a coherent approach focusing on human rights, gender equality, women’s rights, children’s rights, anti-corruption, transparency, poverty reduction, political involvement and accountability.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remain endemic. Mass rapes, in which dozens of women and girls are sexually assaulted with extreme brutality. Children are recruited by different faction and many are subjected to sexual violence and cruel and inhuman treatment while being used as fighters, carriers, cooks, guides, spies and messengers. Their rights to education are denied as many of them are forced to join forces and those who resist are persecuted. Impunity continues to fuel further human rights violations and abuses because the judicial system is weak and suffers from a lack of resources
Congolese people are victim of oppression, repression, injustice, and economic exploitation. The Eastern part of the country remains unstable region and people are subjected to an onslaught of human rights abuses, killing, massacre, and rape exists on a scale seen nowhere else in the world. These are the security challenges that have forced million of Congolese to leave their country and seek refuge in different country around the world.
Congolese Solidarity Campaign will continue to appeal to any rational and sensible man and woman from all walks of life to become the voice of the voiceless so that democratic governance and respect of human rights can be strengthened and sustained in the country. A peaceful and productive society is based on effective state institutions. We want to see effective and efficient structures which provide optimal support to Congolese citizens in leading a safe and productive life in line with their desires and opportunities. Institutionalized procedures and political involvement is needed at all the time if human rights is to strengthen in the country.
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