Human rights in DRC: Hopes and concerns since election of President Tshisekedi

Arsene Mpiana / AFP

Paris, Kinshasa, Nairobi, 7 June 2022 — As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) enters the run-up to the presidential election, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Ligue des électeurs, Association africaine de défense des droits de l’Homme (ASADHO) and Groupe Lotus publish a note on the state of the human rights situation in the country, about one year before President Felix Tshisekedi’s first term comes to a close in 2023.

At a launch event organised in Kinshasa on 7 June 2022, FIDH and its member organisations in the DRC publish and present their note on the human rights situation in the country.

In 2019 five priorities were identified. Where are we, three years later?

The note reflects on the five priorities that had been detailed in a roadmap and addressed in March 2019 to the then newly elected president:
- the fight against impunity, the promotion of truth and the strengthening of justice in order to guarantee national reconciliation and lasting peace;
- respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the promotion of political dialogue;
- the defence and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality;
- strengthening the rule of law and democracy;
- cooperation with the international and regional communities and the implementation of human rights protection mechanisms.

President Tshisekedi’s election in 2019 raised much hope among the Congolese people after years of authoritarian rule. This political changeover was followed by some encouraging actions, in particular on transitional justice and regional and international cooperation.

"We particularly welcome the reopening of the trial in the Chebeya/Bazana case," said Paul Nsapu, president of Ligue des électeurs and FIDH vice-president. "While efforts have been made to implement transitional justice initiatives, it is now necessary to investigate and prosecute those most responsible for the crimes committed and officially acknowledge the dismissal of John Numbi so that he can be brought to justice."

However, the predominant feeling on the ground is one of disillusionment. The promises and announcements made at the beginning of the presidential term have not been followed up on.

"The law on protection of human rights defenders must be discussed without further delay, so that legal protection is finally granted to those fighting for the protection and promotion of human rights in the DRC. Attacks and threats against human rights defenders must stop. Their role in the democratic process and the respect of human rights must be recognised."

Dismas Kitenge, president of Groupe Lotus

Several points of concern emerged during Mr Tshisekedi’s term, with the resurgence of certain practices that had taken place under the regime of Joseph Kabila.

"Our organisations note with concern the shrinking of civic and democratic space. This is epitomised by numerous instances of administrative and judicial authorities attacking political opponents’ — and human rights defenders’ and journalists’ — freedom of movement and the right to personal liberty."

Jean Claude Katende, president of ASADHO

Real efforts have been made but, as the presidential election approaches, concerns linger about the country’s human rights situation. Human rights abuses are most prevalent in the provinces under state of siege since 2021. There, particularly in Ituri and North Kivu, the army is in charge of administration and law enforcement.

The efforts made by the Congolese government since the beginning of the present mandate must be stepped up. Particular attention to the human rights situation is required in the run-up to the election, to ensure that the rule of law and democratic principles are respected in DRC.

Our organisations call on the Congolese authorities to restore the Congolese population’s confidence in institutions, starting with the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), which is the guarantor of credible, transparent and independent elections. FIDH, Ligue des électeurs, ASADHO and Groupe Lotus underscore the importance of holding elections within the constitutional timeframe.

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