Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
Congo (Kinshasa): Human Rights (ASADHO)
Congo (Kinshasa): Human Rights (ASADHO)
Date distributed (ymd): 980607
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+ Summary Contents:
This posting contains a translation of a May 15 report by the African Association
for the Defense of Human Rights in Congo/Kinshasa (ASADHO, former AZADHO)
on the first year since the overthrow of the Mobutu dictatorship. It also
contains an additional, unrelated, note on sources for current developments
in the Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict.
Additional note to readers:
For current news on attempts to resolve the current conflict in the
Horn of Africa between Ethiopia and Eritrea, see AfricaNews Online
The coverage includes latest Pan African News Agency (PANA) reports from
the OAU meeting convening this week, as well as news from the Addis Tribune,
the Embassy of Eritrea in Washington and other sources.
Regular updates (daily and weekly) on Central and Eastern Africa, including
the Horn as well as Central Africa, are available from the UN's Integrated
Regional Information Network by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or on the Web (http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int).
The State of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
One Year after the Fall of the Mobutu Dictatorship
Statement by ASADHO(African Association for the Defense of Human
Rights in Congo/Kinshasa)
on the First Anniversary of The New Regime
May 15, 1998
[Unofficial translation from French by APIC. The French-language original
was distributed on-line by the Comitato di solidarieta' con il Congo-Kinshasa,
E-mail: email@example.com; Web:
As the Democratic Republic of the Congo celebrates its first year anniversary
since the fall of the Mobutu dictatorship in May 1997, the African Association
for the Defense of Human Rights in Congo/Kinshasa, ASADHO (ex-AZADHO) finds
that never in the last ten years of the history of this country have human
rights violations been as rampant as they are today; that the democratization
process to which the vast majority of the people are committed, after having
extracted it from the previous regime at the price of sacrifices, has never
been so threatened with a definitive end, that the country has never before
been steered on such an uncertain course.
1. On taking charge of the state, the ADFL (Alliance of Democratic Forces
for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire) said that it would restore respect for
human rights, reestablish the power of the courts, and restore the trust
between the population and the army. One year later, not only are none
of these goals on the road to being achieved, but in some cases there is
a strong impression that things are going backwards in relation to the
Ethnic tensions are exacerbated, particularly in the Kivu provinces
where anti-Tutsi sentiment has never been greater. Tensions there are driven
by an uncertain government policy with respect to land problems, traditional
power, nationality, and the armed groups that operate there.
The lack of effectiveness of government policy towards the armed groups
in the region is shown by the fact that the recent interventions of the
Armed Forces of the Congo (FAC) in the cities of Butembo and Beni, far
from wiping out the armed groups, caused more civilian casualties in two
months than the war waged by the ADFL between September 1996 and May 1997.
Traditional leaders, academics, and civil servants accused of sympathizing
with or belonging to undefined rebel groups are regularly arrested by security
forces and the army and held for long periods of time without due process.
Fifteen people, including two traditional chiefs and a university professor,
are still in detention since their arrest several months ago. They are
held in prisons in Kinshasa and Kananga, where they have reportedly been
Arbitrary arrests are multiplying, especially by the security services
whose numbers are increasing and which function outside of any legal framework.
Cases of torture, including flogging, are regularly reported in the security
services detention centers. FAC soldiers often erect checkpoints on roads
in the interior of the country in order to extort and to harass the population.
Torture has also been noted at these checkpoints as well. For example,
at a large mud puddle in Kikwit ironically called "Liberation Lake,"
soldiers throw out those who do not have the "right of passage"
and force them to roll in the mud.
Arbitrariness is nearly complete. No law describes or delimits the powers
of the national police, the National Information Agency (ANR), the Military
Detection of "Anti-Patriotic" Activists (DEMIAP), the National
Security Center (CNS), the Investigation and National Security Directorship
(DESN), and other security services. The agents of these services therefore
have wide powers to arrest, detain, and investigate, which are not limited
by laws nor controlled by judicial authorities. Basic judicial guarantees
do not apply when dealing with these services.
Thus, as it emerges from the recent interview by France Internationale
(RFI) with the chief of state about the detention of two members of the
"Ligue des Electeurs" by the ANR, agents arrest first and ask
questions later. Offenses such as "plotting against the regime"
or "collaborating with foreign powers," which were en vogue during
the height of the Mobutu dictatorship in the 1970s, resurface in political
trials worthy of stalinist purges, such as the one now in Lubumbashi.
The country is experiencing a state of emergency that is even more dangerous
since it is legally undeclared. In one year, the new regime will have imprisoned
more journalists and human rights activists than the Mobutu regime did
in seven. The examples of ASADHO and the "Ligue des Electeurs"
show that the government has a phobia of human rights organizations, which
are systematically suspected of "plotting" against the regime.
Even the slightest contact with a foreigner or a diplomat is considered
sufficient proof of such a plot, and it is up to the accused human rights
activist to prove his or her innocence. The head of a women's rights organization
in Goma was arrested on May 8 this year for consulting with a representative
of an American organization. By a "registration procedure" not
provided for in law, the Minister of Justice granted himself the power
to decide what human rights organizations are authorized. Thus he avoids
following a 1965 law that stipulates exact criteria and a clear procedure
for the formation and functioning of organizations.
Sidelining political parties contributes to the lack of clarity in a
democratization program that is decided unilaterally by the head of state.
He is the only one who knows when and how the constituent assembly will
be formed, and what its power and composition will be. The absence of a
national debate on these matters is not favorable to the popular support
and participation that is essential to the success of any democratization
program. The recent statements by the head of state to Radio France International
and the attacks against the headquarters of the UDPS and the FONUS [opposition
parties] show that the measures taken against the political parties are
not only directed toward their activities but towards their existence as
such. Thus they put in question the political pluralism to which the people
are committed. The theory that each political party has its own militia,
which is used to justify these measures, is contradicted by the good-will
enjoyed by other political parties. The UDPS/Kibassa, for example, benefitted
from a police raid on the headquarters of the other UDPS.
Similarly, UFERI, the only political party widely known to have had
its own militia, responsible, with Mobutu's army, for the massacre in Katanga
of many people from Kasai and the deportation of more than a million, has
not seen any of its leaders questioned about these facts. Its president,
Kyungu Wa Kumwanza, even held a press conference before one of his former
prisoners, Zahidi Ngoma, could hold his own.
The power and independence of the judicial authorities, which was already
blighted under Mobutu, are today completely disregarded. The courts have
not been asked to participate in regulating the transition from a dictatorial
regime to one of law. The prosecution of officials of the former regime
has been removed from the courts to be run directly by the executive in
a way that is not transparent. The Office of Ill-Gotten Goods (l'Office
des Biens Mal Acquis), an arm of the executive branch, far from satisfying
the goals expected by public opinion, has in its turn appropriated goods
of individuals and sometimes managed them in a scandalous fashion.
The only court particularly made use of by the new regime, the Count
of Military Order, is an exceptional jurisdiction, which decides in each
case if, according to its opinion, its powers are justified, making use
of a theory of "state of war" which allows it to set aside the
applicability of a law. It is this court, the decisions of which are not
subject to appeal, which systematically finds guilty those detained by
the security forces for their views.
Political trials, which were under the jurisdiction of the Court of
State Security under the old regime, are now the responsibility of this
Court of Military Order. The arrests made by the security agents are not
submitted to judicial review; the judges, who have no authority over the
police and security officers, further undermine the courts by refusing
to protest the interference by the services into their realm of authority.
In Mbuji-Mayi, agents of the ANR regularly arrest judges and lawyers; recently,
a judge was locked in the trunk of a car to take him to jail. Protest came
not from the state prosecutor responsible for the judge, but from a group
of lawyers in Mbuji-Mayi. In Kinshasa, the Attorney General doesn't dare
to question an ANR member who seized ASADHO correspondence without a warrant
on March 15.
The fact that the new regime inherited an economic catastrophe in undeniable.
The government's economic difficulties make it seem unreasonable in the
short term to demand back every social and economic right. Nevertheless,
ASADHO is convinced that the success of the program of national reconstruction
depends in large part on popular support and participation as well as the
support of the international community.
A process such as that of the provincial and national conferences, which
were abruptly ended in January, had the potential to ensure such popular
participation in the conception and the implementation of the reconstruction
program. But a policy of restrictions against organizations of civil society,
a climate where entrepreneurs are mistrusted, and the harassment of the
rural populations by taxes and checkpoints, are far from guaranteeing such
participation. At the same time, daily statements against foreign governments
and international organizations and an excess of nationalist rhetoric does
little but reinforce a climate of isolation and build a persecution complex.
They are not conducive to encouraging aid that the government very much
2. The African Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Congo/Kinshasa
appeals to the Head of State and the government to take advantage of this
anniversary to make significant changes in management of the country to
bring it as close as possible to an open and democratic system and to guarantee
the best chances for a state of law.
In particular, there is an urgent need to:
- Prepare a dialogue and a permanent national consensus, notably by the
release of the sixty or so political prisoners including human rights activists,
journalists, and political leaders; by stopping all political trials under
way or under preparation; and by inviting all political opinions and social
forces to participate in the democratization process that should be relaunched.
- Encourage popular participation at all phases of the national reconstruction
program and consider that democratization and reconstruction are complementary
and interdependent - one cannot succeed without the other.
- Do away with the Court of Military Order, abolish crimes based on expression
of opinions, reestablish the authority of the judges in all cases of detention,
and hold the police, the ANR, and other security services accountable under
- Reestablish standard military court jurisdictions so that soldiers
accused of violating human rights benefit from judicial protections that
the Court of Military Order refuses to recognize.
- Facilitate the speedy resolution of the conflicts in Kivu, by giving
up the present military logic that has shown its limits more than five
years ago, and substituting a political option that implies dialogue with
all interested parties, including the "Mai-Mai" fighters, and
order investigations in order to prosecute those responsible for the massacres
against the civilian population of Butembo and Beni.
Kinshasa, May 15, 1998
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington
Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate
in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa,
by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and
analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.