Five human rights priorities addressed to President Félix Tshisekedi

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(Kinshasa-Paris) Just weeks after the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), four NGOs have identified in a new report five priority areas key to improving the country’s human rights situation, which has been disastrous over the past 20 years. Devastated by several conflicts which have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, corruption, and impunity, the DRC has, since 2015, experienced serious internal tensions tied to the postponement of and the holding of elections. The report and its conclusions were presented and discussed on 12 March in Kinshasa with the new president, Félix Tshisekedi.

Our organizations believe that the new authorities must adopt a staunchly proactive policy to promote human rights and the rule of law and turn the page on decades of authoritarian and corrupt rule.

"We call on the Congolese authorities to consider our 48 recommendations to improve the situation of fundamental rights and to restore national unity and lasting peace in the country."

Paul Nsapu Mukulu, FIDH Deputy Secretary General and President of the League of Voters, who returned to the DRC after 15 years of forced exile

It is in this context that an advocacy mission in Kinshasa was carried out 11-15 March 2019. A set of 48 recommendations grouped into five main priorities for a State more respectful of human rights was proposed to the new President of the Republic. [1]

As soon as the new government is formed, it is crucial that the authorities adopt a road map or a national plan of action for human rights in order to initiate the reforms necessary to establish genuine rule of law and institutions which guarantee public and individual liberties, in a country stricken by widespread corruption, authoritarian and violent practices, and impunity.

"The fight against impunity, the promotion of truth, and the reinforcement of justice are crucial for taking concrete steps forward in governance, democracy, and human rights in the DRC."

Dismas Kitenge Senga, President the Lotus Group

Many political crimes targeting human rights defenders (e.g. Chebey, Banzana), individuals, or entire groups (e.g. Kasai, Kivus; see UN mapping report), have never gone to trial, with no one held responsible, undermining national reconciliation and leaving victims still waiting for justice and support. Given the scale of mass crimes and sexual violence committed over the last 20 years, it is high time the warlords and political leaders behind the atrocities committed be convicted and sentenced. Institutional reforms are urgently needed, starting with the overhaul of the judicial system, which is characterized by a lack of independence and resources.

Beyond judicial processes – that are sure to be limited by the lack of resources and the extent of the violence committed – it is essential that a process of transitional justice involving the entire population be conducted, thus allowing for identifying the roots of the violence and rebuilding ties between citizens. Implementing a mechanism of truth, appeasement and reconciliation aiming toward building national unity would be a logical step in this context. The persisting and systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence must be specifically examined as a part of this process.

We urge President Tshisekedi and his teams to draw on the recommendations made by our organizations in order to build upon and reinforce the initial positive steps already taken since the beginning of his five-year mandate. [2]

"We welcome the progress and commitments made by President Félix Tshisekedi with regards to human rights protection, in that they signal a willingness to break with the state violations perpetrated in the past. Nonetheless, our organizations will continue to carefully monitor how the pledges announced by the new administration are put into practice, as well as the everyday reality of respect for human rights."

Jean-Claude Katende, President of ASADHO

The President’s “first 100 days” emergency agenda, which focuses on security, policy, and social issues, is a positive gesture that must be translated into action. The composition (still in negotiation) of the future government will give first indications of the new president’s challenges in implementing these reforms, particularly since Joseph Kabila’s former ruling party has retained a majority in the National Assembly.

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