ASF in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Location: Kinshasa (Kinshasa) , Bunia (Ituri), Matadi (Kongo Central), Tshikapa (Kasaï) Date of establishment: 2002 Team: 23 collaborators Contact: jtroncoso@asf.be

General context

With a population of roughly 80,000,000, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second-biggest country in Africa. Despite elections in 2006 and 2011, which were considered democratic by the international community, DRC is struggling to end the cycle of conflict. Insecurity persists in the east, where it has been maintained for more than ten years by different armed groups, which have committed serious and massive human rights violations. Fuelled by extractive activities, the illegal trade in natural resources, and endemic corruption, these conflicts have left the population in a permanent climate of instability, which has led to a serious humanitarian crisis. The conflicts and violence have spread to other provinces in the country, including Kasai Province, which has seen large-scale violence since mid-2016.

Since the end of 2016, DRC has been undergoing a new political crisis due to President Kabila remaining as head of state despite his second and final term coming to an end. Peaceful demonstrations demanding democratic change have been frequently and violently repressed by the police, the army, and the intelligence services, who carried out many arrests and kidnappings in a severe restriction of the people’s democratic freedoms.

This tense climate is made worse by a very unstable economic and social situation. DRC has been hit hard by the impact of the international economic crisis on the prices of primary materials, including mining and logging resources, the country’s main sources of economic development.

The condition of justice

Despite many efforts to address the issue, people still face major obstacles in terms of access to justice. The national conference on justice held in 2015 highlighted the many challenges of an institutional and structural, material, financial, and even sociological nature, which the national policy for justice reform adopted in May 2017 is intended to address.

Nonetheless, the budget allocated to justice is currently still far too limited, which means that the provision of justice is weak and dysfunctional. Considering the country’s immense size, geographic coverage is a key issue. Access to a lawyer, moreover, is not guaranteed. In the absence of a functional and subsidised legal aid system, the cost of a lawyer’s services is still unaffordable for most people. Moreover, most lawyers are based in big urban areas, so the majority of Congolese people have no access to their services.

Finally, there is a lack of knowledge among the people about their rights and the means of exercising them, especially in rural areas. They also express a growing mistrust of judicial institutions, due to the latent corruption of the people who work in them, the low rate of implementation of decisions, and the high economic and social cost of legal procedures. As a result, most citizens continue to turn to traditional authorities to resolve their conflicts.

Projects

Publications

July 19, 2022

Annual report 2021

July 12, 2022

(French) PRESS RELEASE – Avocats Sans Frontières and Southern Africa Resource Watch organise a round table on the governance of the oil sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo

June 17, 2022

(French) Press release - Ezekere case: Heavy sentences against the accused and individual and collective reparations granted to 254 civil parties, a new positive development in Congolese jurisprudence

March 16, 2022

The governance of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo - The case of the mining sector in the province of Haut Uele: Participatory survey with communities in the Kibali and Mangbutu sectors

News

January 24, 2022

Being detained in the Makala prison during the pandemic : An interview with the NGO PRODHOJ

Between March and September 2021, PRODHOJ, with the support of Avocats Sans Frontières, carried out monitoring work to evaluate the conditions of detention and access to justice of detainees in the central prison of Kinshasa, known as ‘Makala’, in the context of the COVID19 pandemic. In this interview, Samuel Atweka and Gysy Uma, both members of PRODHOJ, share with us the results of their monitoring, their opinion on the dysfunctions of the penal chain in the DRC and their recommendations to improve it.

July 29, 2021

Press release - NGOs call out to Perenco: end the opacity to tackle the multinational's impunity

In a letter made public today, Sherpa, Friends of the Earth France and Avocats sans Frontières call the oil company Perenco S.A out. Our associations denounce the opacity of Perenco group’s organization and operation, as well as the absence of any information on the way the French company takes into account the social and environmental consequences of its activities abroad. While its activities are regularly criticized for their negative impacts on the environment and human rights, the multinational seems to be favoring this opacity, which would allow it to continue operating with impunity.

July 13, 2021

Reparation to victims of international crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a major challenge in the fight against impunity

ASF has been active in the fight against impunity and the field of international justice for over 15 years in the DRC. During that time, the organization has witnessed great progress but regrets that current mechanisms are still not up to the challenges at stake.