Democratic Republic of Congo: Treatment by the authorities of those who protested in 2017 and 2018 for the enforcement of the 31 December 2016 New Year’s Eve political agreement (accord de la Saint-Sylvestre) (2017–April 2019) [COD106273.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. The New Year’s Eve Agreement

Several sources report that on 31 December 2016, the government in power and the opposition signed a political agreement, negotiated under the aegis of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo, CENCO), on the management of the country until the next elections and on the organization of the elections (Jeune Afrique 31 Dec. 2016; Le Devoir 31 Mar. 2018; Justice et Paix Dec. 2017, 2). For information on the content of the 31 December 2016 political agreement, called the New Year’s Eve agreement, see Response to Information Request COD105815 of July 2017.

2. Protests
2.1 Protest on 31 December 2017

A joint report prepared by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo, MONUSCO) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) indicates that on 31 December 2017, the Lay Coordination Committee (Comité laïc de coordination, CLC) [1] organized protests in Kinshasa and other Congolese cities to enforce the maintenance and respect of the 31 December 2016 political agreement (UN Mar. 2018, para. 8). Human Rights Watch also indicates that in early December 2017, the CLC called for a protest on 31 December to [Human Rights Watch English version] “protest the failure to implement the so-called New Year’s Eve Agreement and ‘to free the future of Congo’” (Human Rights Watch 20 Jan. 2018). In addition, the Africa section of the Catholic daily, La Croix, reports that on 2 December 2017, the CLC invited Catholics to demand adherence to the [New Year’s Eve] Agreement and to mark the anniversary of its signing with [translation] “strong actions” (La Croix Africa 2 Jan. 2018). Sources state that the authorities had prohibited such protests (UN Mar. 2018, para. 46; La Croix Africa 2 Jan. 2018).

According to Human Rights Watch, during the 31 December 2017 protests, [Human Rights Watch English version] “[s]ecurity forces ... used excessive force, including teargas and live ammunition, against peaceful protesters” (Human Rights Watch 20 Jan. 2018). Sources note that [translation] “at least” eight people were killed during the 31 December 2017 protests (Le Monde with AFP 1 Jan. 2018; Human Rights Watch 20 Jan. 2018; UN Mar. 2018, para. 46). Human Rights Watch adds that [Human Rights Watch English version] “dozens” of people were injured with gunshot wounds (Human Rights Watch 20 Jan. 2018), while the joint MONUSCO and OHCHR report indicates that at least 98 people were injured (UN Mar. 2018, para. 46). Le Monde, with Agence France-Presse (AFP), reports that around 100 people were arrested on 31 December (Le Monde with AFP 1 Jan. 2018), while Human Rights Watch indicates that law enforcement arrested [Human Rights Watch English version] “scores of people in the days leading up to the protests and on December 31” (Human Rights Watch 20 Jan. 2018). The report of the UN Secretary-General on MONUSCO reports over 140 arrests on 31 December (UN 5 Jan. 2018, para. 2) and the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 states that some 180 arrests were made that day (US 20 Apr. 2018, 10). US Country Reports 2017 adds that most of the people who were arrested were later released, but that many civil society activists who had been arrested remained in detention facilities of the National Intelligence Agency (Agence nationale de renseignement, ANR) until shortly after the year’s end (US 20 Apr. 2018, 10). The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (The Observatory) [2] indicates that five members of the Filimbi movement [3] and three members of the Lutte pour le changement (LUCHA) movement [4] were arrested on 29 and 30 December 2017 in Kinshasa, Kindu and Kisangani while participating in various public mobilization efforts for protests on 31 December (The Observatory 19 Jan. 2018). According to the source, the three LUCHA members were provisionally released on bail on 19 January 2018 after having been charged with [translation] “'inciting people to violence against public authority'” (The Observatory 19 Jan. 2018).

Sources report that on 25 September 2018, four protesters [from Filimbi (Jeune Afrique 27 Sept. 2018)] were convicted of one year in prison after having been arrested while participating in a protest on 31 December 2017 (Jeune Afrique 27 Sept. 2018; Reuters 25 Sept. 2018). Sources report that while detained, one of the activists, or all four activists, were subjected to mistreatment (Jeune Afrique 27 Sept. 2018; Reuters 25 Sept. 2018). According to sources, on 25 December 2018, these four people were released, after having served their sentences (RFI 26 Dec. 2018; Jeune Afrique 25 Dec. 2018).

Sources report that the eight members of the CLC were forced to live underground after learning that warrants had been issued for their arrest (Jeune Afrique 7 Feb. 2019; The Observatory 8 Feb. 2018). The Observatory states that a [translation] “defamation” campaign was launched against these eight people by the Congolese authorities and that “several relatives of the eight CLC members have lost their jobs since the start of [the] campaign” (The Observatory 8 Feb. 2018). Sources indicate that on 29 January 2019, the members of the CLC who were living underground decided to come out of hiding (Jeune Afrique 7 Feb. 2019; RFI 31 Jan. 2019) in the days following the investiture of the new president, Félix Tshisekedi (RFI 31 Jan. 2019). According to the words of the CLC spokesperson, reported by Jeune Afrique, the [translation] “'level of insecurity'” experienced by the members of the movement “'has significantly declined'” (Jeune Afrique 7 Feb. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.2 Protests on 21 January 2018

Sources report that on 21 January 2018, protests were held around the country urging President Joseph Kabila to resign (Amnesty International 22 Jan. 2018; BBC 21 Jan. 2018). According to sources, the CLC called on the population to participate in these protests (AFP 14 Jan. 2018; UN Mar. 2018, para. 46). The protests had been prohibited by the authorities (BBC 21 Jan. 2018; UN Mar. 2018, para. 46).

According to sources, security forces used teargas to disperse protesters (Amnesty International 22 Jan. 2018; BBC 21 Jan. 2018, Libération 23 Jan. 2018). Sources add that security forces used live bullets on the protesters (Amnesty International 22 Jan. 2018; Libération 23 Jan. 2018).

Sources state that at least six people were killed during the protests (Amnesty International 22 Jan. 2018; BBC 21 Jan. 2018, The Guardian 23 Jan. 2018). According to the BBC and Amnesty International, the people who died were killed by security forces, who also injured some 50 other people (Amnesty International 22 Jan. 2018; BBC 21 Jan. 2018). Similarly, the UN Secretary-General states that 68 people were injured during confrontations with security forces during these protests (UN 15 Feb. 2018, para. 4).

A report from the UN Secretary-General states that 121 people were arbitrarily arrested during nationwide protests (UN 15 Feb. 2018, para. 4). The BBC also reports that “dozens” were arrested (BBC 21 Jan. 2018).

Radio Okapi, the UN radio station in DRC, gives an account of the release, on Tuesday, 20 March 2017, of nine people who were arrested in Goma during protests, after judges of the Goma Peace Tribunal found that the charges of [translation] “false imprisonment of priests, home invasion and malicious destruction” levelled against them were unfounded (Radio Okapi 21 Mar. 2018). The same source reports that those who were arrested spent 60 days in prison (Radio Okapi 21 Mar. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 Protest on 25 February 2018

Sources state that protests were planned for 25 February 2018, after the Sunday church service, but that protestors were prevented from joining in by police and soldiers (Reuters 25 Feb. 2018; The Citizen 26 Feb. 2018). Sources indicate that security forces used teargas and live ammunition to disperse protests (BBC 25 Feb. 2018; Human Rights Watch 29 June 2018). According to sources, two people were killed (BBC 25 Feb. 2018; The Citizen 26 Feb. 2018; Radio Okapi 26 Feb. 2018). Sources report that, according to the MONUSCO, 47 people were injured and [translation] “over 100” were arrested (RFI 26 Feb. 2018; Radio Okapi 26 Feb. 2018).

The Observatory reports that eyewitnesses who saw Rossy Mukendi Tshimanga shot to death by police at the 25 February protests are receiving [translation] “anonymous threats” in the form of “phone calls, home visits, a court order not to testify about the assassination and threats of arrest” (The Observatory 2 Mar. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The French weekly newspaper Le Point reports that the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) is a group of eight members who describe themselves as lay members of the Catholic Church and define the movement launched by the CLC as a [translation] “'Christian laity movement'” (Le Point 31 May 2018).

[2] The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint program of the World Organisation Against Torture (Organisation mondiale contre la torture, OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme, FIDH) created in 1997 with the goal of providing human rights defenders worldwide with support in various ways (The Observatory n.d.).

[3] The Filimbi movement is a Congolese pro-democracy civil society movement that advocates against poor governance and human rights abuses (Front Line Defenders n.d.a). The movement organizes peaceful actions including sit-ins, protests, debates and press conferences (Front Line Defenders n.d.a).

[4] Lutte pour le changement (LUCHA) is a non-violent and non-partisan youth civil society movement (Front Line Defenders n.d.b). LUCHA advocates for social justice and accountability in the DRC (Front Line Defenders n.d.b).

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 14 January 2018. “RDC : Des catholiques appellent à une nouvelle marche anti-Kabila le 21 janvier.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

Amnesty International. 22 January 2018. “DRC: Brutal Crackdown on Anti-Government Protests Must Be Investigated.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 25 February 2018. “DR Congo Protests: Anti-Kabila Protestors Killed.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 21 January 2018. “DR Congo: Several Deaths in Anti-Kabila Protests.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

The Citizen. 26 February 2018. “Two Dead, Dozens Injured in DRC Clashes; The Death Toll Could Have Been Higher as Catholics and Churchgoers Across the Country Attempted to Take Part in the Protests but Were Stopped by Police and Soldiers Before They Could Join In.” (Factiva) [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

La Croix Africa. 2 January 2018. Lucie Sarr. “En RD-Congo, un an de tension entre l'Église et le pouvoir.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Le Devoir. 31 March 2018. Etienne Plamondon Emond. “Crise démocratique en RDC.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Front Line Defenders. N.d.a. “Filimbi.” [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019]

Front Line Defenders. N.d.b. “LUCHA.” [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019]

The Guardian. 23 January 2018. Jason Burke. “Congo Steps Up Deadly Crackdown as Church Joins Anti-Kabila Protests.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Human Rights Watch. 29 June 2018. “DR Congo: Repression Persists as Election Deadline Nears.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

Human Rights Watch. 20 January 2018. “RD Congo : Les forces de sécurité ont tiré sur des fidèles catholiques.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Jeune Afrique. 7 February 2019. Pascal Mulegwa. “RDC : Sortis de la clandestinité, les militants du CLC continueront de surveiller le pouvoir.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Jeune Afrique. 25 December 2018. Pierre Boisselet. “RDC : quatre militants du mouvement citoyen Filimbi, dont Carbone Beni, libérés à Kinshasa.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Jeune Afrique. 27 September 2018. Olivier Liffran. “RDC : Depuis sa prison, l'activiste Carbone Beni dénonce une ‘justice inféodée au pouvoir’.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Jeune Afrique. 31 December 2016. Trésor Kibangula. “RD Congo : l’accord politique global et inclusif enfin adopté et signé à Kinshasa.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Justice et Paix. December 2017. Clara Debeve. Le processus électoral en République démocratique du Congo : un an après les Accords de la Saint Sylvestre quel bilan? [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Libération. 23 January 2018. Maria Malagardis. “Répression en RDC : ‘Les policiers ont poursuivi les fidèles jusque dans une maternité’.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Le Monde with Agence France-Presse (AFP). 1 January 2018. “Au moins huit morts dans la répression des marches anti-Kabila en RDC.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (The Observatory). 2 March 2018. “RDC : menaces à l’encontre de MM. Arsène Tshimanga, Bajik Mpoyi et Timplard Mandianga.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (The Observatory). 8 February 2018. “RDC : Harcèlement et campagne de diffamation à l'encontre de huit membres du CLC.” <gt; [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (The Observatory). 19 January 2018. “Congo, Rep. Dém. : enlèvement et détention arbitraire de cinq défenseurs de Filimbi et trois défenseurs de la LUCHA, et libération provisoire de trois d'entre eux.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (The Observatory). N.d. “L'Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l'homme.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

Le Point. 31 May 2018. Muriel Devey Malu-Malu. “RDC - Comité laïc de coordination : ce fer de lance de la contestation.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 31 January 2019. “DRC: À la faveur du changement, le CLC vise à devenir une structure permanente.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 26 December 2018. “RDC : libération de Carbone Beni et de trois membres du mouvement Filimbi.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 26 February 2018. “Marches des chrétiens en RDC : La majorité dénonce une ‘manipulation’.” [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019]

Radio Okapi. 21 March 2018. “Goma : libération de neuf personnes, dont cinq de la LUCHA, après 60 jours de détention.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Radio Okapi. 26 February 2018. “Marche du CLC : deux personnes tuées, la MONUSCO appelle à des enquêtes.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Reuters. 25 September 2018. “Congolese Activists Convicted of Inciting Anti-Kabila Protests.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Reuters. 25 February 2018. Patient Ligodi. “At Least Two Killed in Crackdown on March Against Congo’s Kabila.” [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

United Nations (UN). March 2018. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Recours illégal, injustifié et disproportionné à la force lors de la gestion des manifestations publiques en République démocratique du Congo de janvier 2017 à janvier 2018. [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 15 February 2018. Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on Progress in the Implementation of the 31 December 2016 Political Agreement. (S/2018/128) [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 5 January 2018. Security Council. Rapport du Secrétaire général sur la Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo. (S/2018/16) [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

United States (US). 20 April 2018. Department of State. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017. [Accessed 29 Mar. 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme; Belgium – Cedoca; Filimbi; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Freedom from Torture; Groupe Lotus; International Crisis Group; Ligue des électeurs; The New Humanitarian.