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:

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.


Support Programme for the Reform of the Justice System (phase 2)

Funding: European Union
Duration: 3 years (February 2022 > January 2025)

Promote the full and effective realisation of people's rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Funding: Belgian development cooperation
Duration: 5 years (January 2022 > December 2026)

Protect the rights and freedoms of spokespersons of the Congolese population

Funding: The embassy of the Netherlands
Duration: 3 years (July 2021 > July 2024)


July 7, 2023

Annual report 2022

April 11, 2023

(French) Press release - 11 years of waiting, violated rights and illegality in Central Kongo, the province is still waiting for compensation from oil extraction companies for environmental damage

April 11, 2023

(French) Press release - Destabilisation, a strategy to block the effective implementation of the ministerial decree on the creation, organisation and functioning of the Muanda Territory Concertation Committee

November 4, 2022

(French) Press release - One year after the forced demolitions of their homes, the victims of Mege village are still waiting for answers to their demands


September 22, 2023

ExPEERience Talk #11 - Decriminalising poverty, status and activism: a global emergency, an international campaign

This 11th ExPEERience Talk will be devoted to the Campaign for the Decriminalisation of Poverty, Status and Activism. Several of its members will present its history and how it operates. They will discuss the challenges encountered and the opportunities presented by the networking of a multiplicity of actors to tackle a global and systemic issue of such magnitude.

September 20, 2023

Combating prison overcrowding and illegal detentions in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In this article published in ASF's latest annual report, we look back at the situation of detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (endemic prison overcrowding, endemic violations of prisoners' fundamental rights, etc.) and the action taken by ASF and its partners to assist people in detention and work for structural and sustainable change in the country's prison system.

September 14, 2023

The campaign to decriminalise poverty, activism and status

The Campaign for the Decriminalisation of Poverty, Status and Activism, launched in Africa, South Asia, North America and the Caribbean, is led by a coalition of civil society organisations calling for the revision and repeal of laws that target people because of their status (social, political or economic) or their activism. In many countries, criminal procedure, penal codes and policing policies continue to reflect a colonial legacy. Offences dating from the colonial era, such as vagrancy, begging or disorderly conduct, are commonly used against people already in a vulnerable or marginalised situationt (homeless people, people with disabilities, drug users, LGBTIQ+ people, sex workers, migrants, etc.), with the sole aim of criminalising what they represent in society rather than the offences they have committed.