from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – THE jailing of 12 activists by a military court in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is denounced as a campaign to thwart peaceful demonstrations in the region.
The court in Beni, North Kivu province, sentenced the activists of the citizen movement Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA or Struggle for Change) to one year in prison.
This follows a demonstration last November.
Suspects – aged between 19 and 34 years old- have been detained since then.
Their sentence, including the five months already served, is for “provocation and incitement to breaches of public authority.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) argues this is a stark reminder of how the authorities are using martial law and military courts to suppress peaceful critics.
The military crackdown that began with the imposition of martial law last May continues.
Last weekend, another LUCHA activist, King Ndungo, was arrested and detained in Goma for critical social media posts.
HRW recently documented DRC’s alleged backsliding on fundamental rights and freedoms under the pretext of martial law in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
This is apparently in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“The country’s international partners should break their silence and publicly press the government to end its repression tied to martial law in the east,” said Thomas Fessy, HRW Senior Researcher for DRC.
DRC is also facing incessant banditry by armed groups in the east.
The government of President Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo has battled to maintain order since he took over from Joseph Kabila in 2019.
– CAJ News