DRC: The Activists Arrested in Kinshasa Yesterday Must Immediately Be Released

Members of the “#MyVote MustCount” Coalition - and in particular FIDH and its member organizations in Senegal, Burkina Faso, and DRC - condemned the arrests of some 40 activists of Senegalese, Burkina, and Congolese civil societies, and journalists who had come to Kinshasha (DRC) to announce, during a press conference, the launch of a citizen platform to mobilize youth in view of the upcoming elections. A concert was to be held that same evening. Our organizations are concerned about the physical integrity of the activists and demand their immediate release.

On March 15, 2015, during a press conference held in Kinshasa at the headquarters of the NGO “Ba jeune Maboko Na Maboko Pona Congo” (Hand in Hand for the Congo), police arrested at least three activists from the Senegalese citizen movement “Y’en a marre” (“Fed Up”), a Burkinabe activist from “Balai citoyen” (Civic Broom), others from Congolese organizations Lucha and Filimbi, as well as several journalists. In the middle of the conference, which was held to launch Congo Week and the citizen platform Filimbi, policemen in civilian dress and military members took the activists and shuttled them off to an unknown destination in three pickup trucks. Our organizations fear that they may be held for interrogation at the National Intelligence Agency (Agence nationale de renseignements, ANR), where they could be subjected to ill-treatment, which is common practice in the premises of these intelligence services.

Congolese authorities must immediately release all the arrested activists and journalists, declared Chrysogone Zougmoré, MBDHP President from Burkina Faso. The upcoming elections in DRC seem to have pushed the powers in Kinshasa to act irrationally, making them arrest citizen activists and artists from Senegal, Burkina Faso, and DRC, declared Assane Dioma Ndiaye of LSDH in Senegal, one of the member organisations of the “#MyVote MustCount” Coalition.

Among those arrested, there would be 3 Senegalese from “Y’en a marre”, (including Fadel Barro, one of its leaders), Oscibi Johann from the Burkinabe citizen movement “Balai citoyen”, three Congolese journalists from the BBC, an American citizen working for USAID, a Goma activist, a Congolese rapper, and a number of other journalists. Police reportedly arrested technicians who were putting together the concert for the night of March 15th in Kinshasa and confiscated several computers.

The African activists had come to support the launch of the Filimbi citizen platform, which aims at encouraging youth participation in the electoral and democratic processes in DRC. The Senegalese and Burkinabe citizen movements (“Y en a marre” and “Balai Citoyen”, respectively) were involved in mobilizing citizens against another mandate for President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso.

The presidential election in DRC is to be be held in 2016. At the end of January 2015, popular protests against the adoption of a new electoral law authorizing President Kabila to stay in power were violently suppressed by security forces, killing at least 42 protestors. Following this repression, 600 civil society organisations addressed an open letter to the President of the Republic, demanding an independent investigation into the murders, free and democratic elections in DRC, and the release of Christopher Ngoyi, a human rights activist who was arrested and whose trial is scheduled to begin on March 18, 2015.

The “#MyVote MustCount” Coalition
The coalition #MyVoteMustCount, an FIDH initiative, brings together over a hundred African and international civil society organisations to counter manipulation, fraud and violence during the 52 elections, of which 25 are presidential elections, that are scheduled to be held between 2015 and 2017 in 27 African countries. The civil societies demand that their governments respect their legitimate right to freely selected their representatives through regular, free, transparent elections, and through public mobilisation, field actions and political advocacy before each of the elections, until the elections in 2017. Is your organisation an independent civil society organisation? If so, then join the #MyVoteMustCount coalition.

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