US condemns convictions of anti-government activists in DRC

Some LUCHA members displaying their protest signs

Some LUCHA members displaying their protest signs

The United States has expressed concerns over last week’s convictions four young activists and members of the group “LUCHA” (Lutte pour le changement (struggle for change) by the Superior Court of Goma in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

US authorities also worry about “the impact that cases such as this could have on the stability of the country.”

The four activists – Tresor Akili, Sylvain Kambere, Gentil Mulume, and Vincent Kasereka were convicted last Friday for “inciting public disobedience.”

The quartet’s conviction follows the April rally protesting arrests of fellow activists Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala of Filimbi movement, the duo is still in custody in the capital Kinshasa awaiting trial.

LUCHA activists have been protesting against the Kabila government since 2012, and they have been marching demanding changes in the political system of the country and calling for improved service delivery in their communities.

Their activities have since captured the attention of international media, human rights organisations and celebrities.

“Such arrests, detentions, and convictions of political activists have a chilling effect on freedom of organization, assembly, and expression in the DRC,” John Kirby, State Department Spokesman said in a statement Tuesday adding that “it is particularly important that the government protect these constitutionally accorded and internationally recognized rights during this period of active campaigning and public political debate as the DRC prepares for elections.”

The US is calling on the DRC authorities “to ensure a free, fair and open legal process” as the four young men continue to fight their convictions.

Earlier this year, protests erupted in Kinshasa against President Joseph Kabila move to change the constitution in order to extend his stay in power, the demonstrations turned bloody as more than 40 people died, and dozens were injured, the government then withdrew the controversial electoral bill.
Congolese are due to head to the polls November 2016 to elect the next president and Kabila hasn’t ruled out running for the third term.

Kabila has been in office since 2001 when he took over after the murder of his father Laurent Desire Kabila.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in natural resources but it is one of the most impoverished and remote countries in the world.

It is estimated that between 70 and 90% of the youths are unemployed and the vast central African nation has been characterized by widespread lawlessness and blatant human rights violations.

The country has also been the epicenter regional armed conflict involving neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Angola among others.

Rwanda and Uganda have often been accused of sending troops in DRC to destabilize the country and plunder minerals but the two states say the reason they enter Congo is to flush out militias like FDLR and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).