Kinshasa and Johannesburg
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) calls on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to immediately and unconditionally release four human rights defenders (HRDs) and leaders from the community of Mwingi who were arbitrarily arrested after a peaceful protest against the oil palm plantation company PHC.
The four HRDs are members of Réseau d’Information et d’Appui aux ONG nationales (Support and Information Network for National Organisations – RIAO-RDC), a network which comprises of more than 200 non-governmental organisations from across the DRC in defending land and resource rights. According to reports received, the three defenders were arrested under a false accusation of having incited revolt, having taken pictures of the protest march and having given interviews about the march to journalists in Lokutu.
“The recent arrests of Messrs Christian Litikela, André Lisongi, José Litikela and Chimita Alela is part of a series of attacks against media and activist groups that we have been witnessing in the DRC in the past months”, said Arnold Tsunga, Chairperson of the SAHRDN. “Although President Tshisekedi promised to ‘guarantee to each citizen the respect of the exercise of their fundamental rights’ in his early days of Presidency, what we are witnessing from the ground has been marked by an increase in arbitrary arrests and the prosecution of several journalists and activists across the country”, added Mr Tsunga.
The SAHRDN calls on the Government to immediately release those detained for exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, as guaranteed in the Constitution of the DRC. We also call on the security forces to end the intimidation of human rights defenders and stop the use of unnecessary and excessive force and intimidation against those engaged in peaceful protests. We also urge President Tshisekedi who is also the new African Union (AU) Chairperson to respect the letter and spirit of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the International Bill of Rights.
For more information, please contact the following:
Washington Katema, SAHRDN Team Leader
+27 73 620 2608
Jean-François Mombia Atuku, Director of RIAO-RDC