HRW: Repression escalating in DR Congo

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that repression is escalating in the Democratic Republic of Congo under President Felix Tshisekedi.

The rights group says that, despite making some initial progress in advancing human rights after replacing Joseph Kabila two years ago, his government has increasingly cracked down on the media and activist groups. In the most recent case, eight young activists were detained after attending a pro-democracy march and faced 10 years in prison on charges HRW describes as “trumped-up”.

HRW investigates repression in the DRC

Human Rights Watch interviewed 83 people throughout 2020, including victims of abuse, activists, journalists and lawyers to investigate claims of increasing repression in the DRC. The rights group determines that the government has threatened, detained and prosecuted several dozen journalists, activist and others critical of the government since Felix Tshisekedi took office.

HRW says its researchers found at least 109 cases of arbitrary arrests and harassment throughout the year.

“People in Congo shouldn’t have to fear harassment or arrest for criticizing or peacefully protesting government policy,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Two years on, Tshisekedi’s commitments to respecting rights are starting to sound like broken promises.”

Tshisekedi’s second year in office contrasts with his first, which saw a significant decline in political repression following the controversial regime of Joseph Kabila. In 2019, Tshisekedi released most political prisoners in the country and permitted the return of Congolese exiles living abroad.

Despite hints of progression, security forces arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters during his first year and reports of repression have only increased throughout the second year of his tenure.

Featured image: “PHOTO DU JOUR DU MARDI 16 AVRIL 2019” flickr photo by MONUSCO https://flickr.com/photos/monusco/47568170682 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.