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

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 the rights of the people 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)

Publications

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

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

News

November 23, 2022

Putting the interests of local populations at the heart of natural resource exploitation: Transparency, accountability and protection of rights

ASF has been active in the field of natural resource governance since 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Its activities in this area are mainly concentrated in 3 regions, in the provinces of Ituri and Haut Uélé around the mining sector and in the province of Central Kongo around the hydrocarbon extraction sector. The action implemented by ASF and its partners in these three provinces is based on the fight against corruption and human rights violations caused by the activities of the extractive industry. This action is deployed mainly through three types of activities.

March 29, 2022

Press release: International Court of Justice Ruling in the DRC v. Uganda Case: Ensuring a Victim-Focused and Effective Implementation of the Reparations Order

On 9 February 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Uganda to pay $325 million in reparations to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)  for damages to persons, property and natural resources resulting from Uganda’s military intervention in the wars in the DRC between 1998-2003. This follows on from the 2005 judgment in which the ICJ ruled that Uganda’s (direct and indirect) military actions in this period had violated the principle of non-intervention.

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.