More than 100 detained during protests, including 15 journalists

The level of insecurity and violence in DRC remains high, given the continued unstable political situation caused by President Kabila holding on to power with no election date set, despite the brokered agreement made in December 2016 to hold elections before the end of 2017.

On 7th August, shots were heard in areas close to the prison of Makala in Kinsasha, costing the lives of 12 people, according to a police spokesperson. The shots were fired two days before 'ville morte', a protest action organised by the opposition. 

On 4th August, the UN Human Rights Office published a report on the violence in the Kasai provinces, based on interviews with Congolese who had fled to neighboring Angola. The report indicates that the violence is increasingly taking an ethnic dimension and the government has shown complicity in the massacres of its citizens. 

Peaceful Assembly

Over 100 people were arrested on 31st July 2017 during protests organised in several cities throughout the country by citizen movements demanding that the electoral calendar from the CENI - the independent national election commission - be published to ensure the holding of future elections. Protests have been banned in the country for a year through orders, circulars or simple declarations. According to the protest organisers, the assemblies in some localities were prevented from taking place due to a heavy police presence. Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition in Bukavu, resulting in several people being injured according to civil society organisations. Protests also took place in Goma, Bukavu, Kinsasha, Lubumbashi, Butembo, Mbandaka and Béni. 

A coalition of 33 CSOs Pour le Respect de la Consitution (For the respect of the Constitution - CRS) has condemned the detention of five human right defenders (HRDs) on 21st July 2017 in Lubumbashi, as well as called for their release. The five HRDs include lawyer Timothée Mbuya, president of the organisation Justicia and excecutive director of the CRS coalition; Jean Mulenda (Lucha movement); journalist Jean-Pierre Tshibitshiabu; and Patrick Muya and Omari Omba of the NGO AJC Bomoko. The five activists are charged with "incitement to civil disobedience" and remain in detention. Georges Kapiamba, president of Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (Congolese Association for Access to Justice) told RFI: 

"Timothée Mbuya, who has always taken critical positions against the governments, against the repression of manifestations, who has always demanded the liberation of political prisoners, is now victim of judicial harassment that aims simply to punish him for his citizen engagement... They all risk a prison sentence of up to five years, and its extremely severe for us because a lawsuit against a citizen due to participating in a peaceful assembly such as the one organised on the 31st of last month (31st July) cannot be justified". (translated from French)

According to Reporters without Borders, at least 15 journalists were arrested on 31st July, while some were physically attacked and intimidated. Most of the journalists were later released but their photos and videos were usually deleted first. 

 The UN Mission in DRC and Amnesty International, among others, have condemned the arbitrary detention and arrests of protesters and journalists in DRC. 

On 3rd July, police officers prevented a conference-debate of civil society Debout Congolais from taking place in Mbuji-Mayi, in the province of Kasai-Oriental. The conference was organised by Collectif d’Actions de la Société Civile (CASC). As mentioned in the previous Monitor update, another conference organised by CASC in Kinsasha on 30th June was banned at the last minute, and seven civil society activists were detained while trying to enter the conference venue.

According to Human Right Watch, at least 27 people, including three police officers, died during clashes between police and protesters from the political religious sect Bundu dia Kongo on 10th August. The protesters were marching against President Kabila and allegedly attacked a prison.

Association

On 18th August, 40 leaders of citizen movements, civil society organisations, representatives of the Catholic Church and other Congolese leaders launched the Manifesto of the Congolese Citizen in Paris, after a three-day meeting in which they discussed the return to a constitutional order. The Manifesto states that: 

"Under the regime in place, terror has become a form of governance that prevents the Congolese people from claiming their rights; courts and tribunals are instrumentalised; extra-judicial killings are increasing; mass graves are filled up across the country; the access to media and social networks is resricted; and the new digital economy is endangered. This is followed by a systematic and violent repression of all expression of fundamental freedoms and rights against human rights defenders, journalists, members of citizen movements and members of political opposition parties".

The Manifesto demands the departure of President Kabila, the release of political prisoners and a "citizen transition" of the country that will give DRC: 

"a new system of governance based on an independent judiciary, security forces that protect citizens, ensuring the effective exercise of constitutional freedoms, guaranteeing a transparent and equitable management of all national resources and strong end democratic institutions placing the interests of Congolese citizens at the center of any political project".

Expression

The government has requested mobile phone operators to "put in place preventive measures to avoid abusive use of social networks", according to a letter received by Agence France Presse (AFP) on 8th August. The letter allegedly lists 18 social media networks, including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn and Badoo, and was sent the day before the two-day protest action 'ville morte', organised by the opposition. Actualite.cd reported days later that the restrictions on access to social networks were felt by several companies. Authorities claim that the restrictions are a temporary measure to preserve order but for Congolese civil society and media it is another restriction in a context of closing political and civic space. 

Independent journalist Garry Iwele, based in Washington DC, was detained for a short time by security forces on 30th July, a day before the planned protests which he was supposed to cover. He was released after 12 hours, but security forces confiscated his passport and told him not to leave DRC, according to VOA who spoke with Iwele's family members. A couple days earlier, on 25th July two journalists from Agence France-Presse were detained and beaten for 30 minutes by three people claiming to be military intelligence officers. The journalists were covering a strike at a public hospital in Kinshasa.

On 27th July, Congolese authorities decided that foreign journalists now need authorisation to move from one province to another, as well as prior permission to move to areas considered "sensitive". 

On 16th July, abducted American journalist Lisa Dupuy was found alive in a national park in Ituri by the military. The journalist was abducted two days earlier by the Maï Maï, an umbrella of armed local militias that have been active since DRC's civil war in 1997. The military action to save the journalist cost the lives of four ecoguards and a civilian who served as a tracker, according to an anonymous source from the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature

After almost 10 months of disruption, Radio France International's (RFI) services were restored on 12th August 2017. RFI's signal had been jammed since 5th November 2016, right before banned anti-government protests took place.