Posts Tagged ‘DRC’

Djimon Hounsou set to play Congolese Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege in new film

March 12, 2019

Djimon Hounsou (Left) set to play Congolese Nobel winner Denis Mukwege in new film. Pic credit: Fraternité Matin

On 9 March 2019, Mildred Europa Taylor reported for Face2FaceAfrica that Djimon Hounsou is set to play the roll of Congolese Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege in a new film, the   biopic ‘Panzi’, based on the book “Panzi” which was published in 2014. The 63-year-old Mukwege, a renowned Congolese gynaecologist and surgeon, has helped thousands of women and girls who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse at the hands of rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of the civil war in the early 90s. He received many human rights awards [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/breaking-news-see-which-other-awards-the-2018-nobel-peace-prize-laureates-won-already/]. He founded the Panzi Hospital in the South Kivu province in 1999 to provide free and comprehensive care for female victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence during the conflict. The life of the “rape surgeon” has already been documented in the film, “The Man Who Mends Women”, and a book. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/12/profile-denis-mukwege-democratic-republic-of-congo-courageous-doctor-rape-women/]

Hounsou, a Beninese-American actor and model who is best known for his Oscar-nominated performances in “Blood Diamond,” and “In America” will headline “Panzi.” The film will be produced by Cynthia Pinet at Paris-based 1divided Films. Last October, it was announced that the film was in casting and scheduled to start shooting this summer in Central Africa.

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/djimon-hounsou-set-to-play-congolese-nobel-winner-denis-mukwege-in-new-film

Internet shutdowns to silence opposition – what to do?

January 28, 2019

“African governments use Internet shutdowns to silence opposition more and more —what can people do?” askson EuroNews of

What would you do if your government decided to intentionally shut down your access to the Internet? Millions of people around the world have had to answer this question time and time again over the past few years, as government-mandated Internet blackouts are on the rise. Less than a month into 2019, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zimbabwe have experienced government crackdowns on Internet connections.

From 2016 to 2018, 371 separate cases of Internet shutdowns were documented around the world. More than half of them occurred last year alone, according to international non-profit organisation Access Now.

Authorities have used a number of reasons to justify the blackouts, including public safety, national security and stopping the dissemination of rumors and illegal content. However, advocacy groups investigating governmental tendencies to exert control over the flow of information don’t buy it. They claim it has more to do with silencing opposition movements and protests and trying to limit political instability.

They harm everyone: businesses, emergency services, journalism, human rights defenders, and demonstrators. They don’t help victims or restore order,” Access Now’s website reads.

In the past few weeks, several African governments have turned to partial or complete shutdowns in attempts to control the public discussion.

Sudan doubled down on social media amid widespread anti-government protests, with Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition calling on network operators to fight back against state pressure — but it wasn’t the only African country to do so.

Zimbabwean authorities were quick to gag social media — including Facebook and Whatsapp — as soon as civil unrest over rising fuel prices spread in Harare and other major cities, and the DRC also ordered a full blackout following recent elections…..

From 2016 to 2018 alone, Africa witnessed 46 Internet shutdowns,…….Chad, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Algeria, Togo, Cameroon, Gambia, Uganda, Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Lybia, Tunisia, and Algeria have all cracked down on their citizens’ access to the Internet in the past.

How did citizens react to Internet or social media shutdowns?

People always find a way”, Zimbabwean analyst Alexander Rusero told Euronews. “But it {VPN} doesn’t work for everyone”, Rusero pointed out. “Usually the ones in Harare, at the centre of the country, manage to”.

The analyst was quick to underline the issues behind similar crackdowns…”During the Internet blackout there were a lot of lies and rumors — they spread faster than you would believe. Media relies on social media, and so do critical opinion leaders. Outside those platforms, fake news manifest”.

Jean-Hubert Bondo, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, doesn’t believe the problems end here. “Many Congolese families live off their small cybercafés. Also, we are in a country where there are not enough physical libraries. Students and researchers use the Internet to research their work at the university. Young people animate pages on Facebook and WhatsApp”, he told Euronews. “To deprive us of the Internet is to take us back to antiquity”. As for the VPNs Rusero mentioned — the most common ways to avoid Internet censorship worldwide — Bondo said that, during the latest shutdown, they failed to work. “In response to what is being perceived as a violation of human rights, Bondo reported that several Congolese civil society organisations have now lodged a complaint against the main telecommunication companies.

In Uganda, a crackdown on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and mobile money apps in February 2016 as citizens were heading to the polls sparked a legal case that will be discussed in court in February 2019. “Shutdowns may not silence people, but they do hinder communication”, said Ugandan blogger Ruth Aine Tindyebwa….

https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/26/african-governments-use-internet-shutdowns-to-silence-opposition-more-and-more-what-can-pe

https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2019/01/27/ed-justifies-internet-shutdown

Surangya’s take on human right in 2018

January 2, 2019

There are many people looking back on 2018 in terms of human rights. I would like to share the following by Surangya published on 1 January 2019 in Newsclick, entitled: “From terror plots to national security threats, political dissenters faced several charges and labels for raising their voice and questioning excessive power“, with its own angle and priorities:
Political Freedom

As 2018 draws to an end, we take a look at how the year fared for dissent and democracy in different parts of the world:

…Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons for protesting the occupation

The occupying state of Israel is perhaps one of the best examples of a country normalising violence of all sorts. For decades, Israel has occupied Palestinian lands and subjected the people to all kinds of humiliation. This has only intensified the resistance against the occupation, with Palestinians ferociously protesting, even at the cost of their lives…..Israel recognises this threat, which is why as of November 2018, there were almost 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, most of whom challenged the occupation in one way or another. Even more astonishing is the fact that among these prisoners are nearly 250 children, over 40 of whom are under 16 years of age..This imprisonment of children and subjecting them to torture, inhumane living conditions, often even solitary confinement, is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, to which Israel is a signatory. Just recently, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, Ahyam Sabbah, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for a charge of attempted stabbing…

Plot to assassinate the prime minister in India

… With the general elections approaching in 2019, the far-right government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Narendra Modi at the helm, has been looking for any excuse to silence those highlighting this government’s many flaws and suppression of minorities. The most prominent case this year was of the arrest of 10 renowned human rights activists, who were labelled members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and made part of a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Modi, despite there being no concrete evidence supporting these allegations. The wording of the UAPA is such that any speech a person makes questioning the state can be seen as a threat to the country’s security and sovereignty. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/22/attack-on-human-rights-defenders-in-india-are-an-attack-on-the-very-idea-of-india/]

PD%203.PNGVaravara Rao, Vernon Gonsalvez, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Stan Swamy were amongst the activists who faced charges.

Failed peace process in Colombia

Two years after the signing of a peace treaty between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, Cuba, the government has failed to make good on its promises. While the guerrilla organisation surrendered arms for the most part after the treaty was signed, the government now shows no political will to implement the accords and demobilised combatants have been subject of unabated persecution. 92 people who participated in the reincorporation process have been killed……For the more than 400 social leaders and human rights defenders assassinated by right-wing paramilitary and state forces since the Havana agreements were signed, the legal system has been much slower to find those responsible and the government has shown it has no desire to dismantle the criminal structures that carry out these crimes. Just in 2018, human rights organisations reported that over 226 leaders were assassinated and the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC) declared in August that under Duque’s presidency, there has been an increase in the attacks against indigenous people.

Impending elections always create an upsurge in state clampdowns on people’s rights to free speech and protest.

Crackdown in Congo

As the Democratic Republic of Congo finally hit the polls on December 30 after a delay of two years, there was widespread apprehension over the fairness of these elections. President Joseph Kabila held on to power for two years after his constitutionally mandated term ended in December of 2016. Despite being president for the permitted two terms, he remained reluctant to give up control over the country, and only agreed to not contest this time after naming Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as his successor. Shadary is a former minister of interior, and remains under sanctions by the European Union for committing human rights violations in Congo…..At least 2,000 activists, opposition members, and journalists have been put behind bars since the protests against Kabila began in 2015. Many were released after weeks or months of detention and reported mistreatment. In November alone, at least 18 pro-democracy activists were arrested from the capital city Kinshasa. It remains to be seen if the much anticipated elections will bring a change and some relief to the people of Congo.

Philippines

A scenario similar to this, but of a different magnitude, is being witnessed in the island nation of Philippines under the authoritarian regime of Rodrigo Duterte, with widespread attacks on activists and pubic dissenters…Earlier this month, the government approved extension of martial law for the third time, making it effective for another year. While the stated purpose of this is to combat “extremists”, often labelled as members or leaders of the banned Communist Party of Philippines (CPP) or New People’s Army (NPA), those facing chargers are mostly activists challenging Duterte’s authority. In late February, the Duterte regime released a list of almost 600 activists and political dissenters, which was called the Terror List. Labelled terrorists and members of banned groups, many in the list are renowned activists and public figures, including Victora Tauli-Corpus, the current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Brasil

Any concrete evidence to show Lula’s involvement in the corruption scandal is yet to be presented. His indictment, however, gave the extreme right candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign a push, ultimately leading to his victory. The judge responsible for the legal crusade against Lula, Sergio Moro, has been rewarded with a place in Bolsonaro’s cabinet as the Minister of Justice. The attacks against Brazil’s social movements have already intensified. Two leaders of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) were assassinated days before the Human Rights Day on December 10. Members of social movements fear that such incidents will become more commonplace under Bolsonaro, known for encouraging Brazilians to resort to violence when faced with social conflicts.

The year ahead…

While 2018 saw several right-wing regimes and authoritarian leaders accede to power, the coming year offers hope of being different as discontent against neo-liberal systems is rising. The Yellow Vests movement in France, which is still going strong after almost a month and a half, is an inspiring instance of that. Several countries will hit the polls in 2019. The need for mobilising against anti-people parties and disseminating the truth about such parties which often seem appealing to the masses with their populist messages is now stronger than ever, especially if we are to make 2019 any different.

TRIAL books success in two major cases against impunity

May 2, 2018

Two major cases of universal jurisdiction – after years of work – have finally borne fruit in the month of April 2018: One verdict in Switzerland (Sperisen) and one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Colonel “Marocain”) make the case that the mobilization of human rights defenders and civil society can really make a change.

TRIAL is also organising on 18 June  2018 a round-table <http://tracking.etapestry.com/t/35021127/1307643942/76621378/0/96504/?x=04c6288b> in Geneva on the fight against wartime sexual violence. This event will also be the occasion to celebrate the organization’s 15th anniversary.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/13/trial-at-14-has-a-facelift/]

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https://trialinternational.org/latest-post/affaire-sperisen-lancien-chef-de-la-police-du-guatemala-complice-dexecutions-extrajudiciaires/

https://trialinternational.org/latest-post/drc-head-of-militia-receives-20-years-sentence-for-mass-crimes/

Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty 2016 to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the DRC

December 15, 2016

On 13 December 2016 Human Rights First convened its annual Human Rights Summit: American ideals. Universal values, at the Newseum in Washington D.C. in the context of International  Human Rights Day. During the Summit Human Rights First awarded the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to anti-slavery activist Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Murairi was selected for his work on behalf of vulnerable rural populations to combat contemporary forms of slavery in the mining sector in the DRC. (The Roger Baldwin Medal  is given in alternating years by the ACLU to US citizens). HRF logo

It also presented the 2016 Beacon Prize, awarded annually to an individual or organization whose work embodies the best in the tradition of American leadership on human rights, to Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO of Carlson Inc., in recognition of her pioneering leadership in the fight to end modern slavery.

Source: Human Rights First Hosts Annual Human Rights Summit | Human Rights First

Profile of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo: an amazingly courageous doctor

April 12, 2016

Dr Denis Mukwege is a surgeon and the most prominent human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He won several international awards as detailed in earlier posts [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/congolese-gynecologist-wins-europes-sakharov-prize-in-2014/https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/human-rights-first-honors-doctor-denis-mukwege-in-washington-on-21-october/]. He was in Geneva on the occasion of the 2016 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights for the screening of the documentary film The Man Who Mends Women. The ISHR met with Mukwege on 31 March 2016 and published the following profile with details of his grassroots activities to defend women’s dignity and of the threats he faces due to his work: Dr. Denis Mukwege

Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Bahirwe: a lawyer trying to reduce torture in the DRC

December 24, 2015

 

OMCT-LOGOOMCT did the following interview in its series “10 December, 10 Defenders” with Justin Bahirwe , a lawyer from the DRC.

When listening to a soft-spoken, articulate, impeccably dressed 34-year-old Justin, you would think he is promoting human rights in a peaceful, predictable, functioning State. You cannot tell he lives in Bukavu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a desolate place where the world’s deadliest conflict since WW2 has not relented for over two decades, killing some 5.4 million people, where tens of thousands of children are recruited as soldiers – if they do not die of diarrhoea or malaria – political opponents are killed, corruption is rampant and deeply-rooted, the infrastructure nonexistent and extreme poverty pervasive. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Right Defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo

November 29, 2015

On 26 October 2015, the ISHR published a profile of human rights defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo. It was conducted on the margins of a meeting of the African Commission. ISHR-logo-colour-high

Jean-Pierre Okenda has taken his own route toward improving human rights impacts of extractives projects in his country. His role, as coordinator for a platform of civil society organisations in the mining sector, involves a great deal of immersion in books and texts, but also with people.

In the context of the DRC, it was absolutely critical that I redirect my work to make clear the connection between human rights and the extractive sector, and that meant research. It means understanding the global stakes of the issue. It meant explaining how bilateral relations and investment treaties really impact ordinary citizens and their rights.” Research for research’s sake is not Mr Okenda’s goal. He aims to develop networks, training, and tools to empower affected communities and other organisations to better document, understand, and evaluate the human rights impacts of a project.  He also emphasises the role of research in strengthening peoples’ understanding of the links between human rights, extractives industries, and taxation, incomes, and other ‘technical’ issues. He also urged legal reforms to help protects human rights at the local level.

Building relationships with the government and enterprises is a challenge – but it is possible, if one understands where they start from. I sent a questionnaire on human rights to local and national authorities, and you know what? There was, aside from a small amount of general familiarity at the central level, a total gap in terms of human rights knowledge. This made it clear that – sometimes – violations arise because of this lack of awareness or training. And yet, they are still responsible for protecting and realising these rights!” It is important,’ he added, ‘that they know what we are looking for when we come and ask for such and such a document’.

With corporations, it is the same. They limit themselves to two things: to the legal framework, and to the business’s internal priorities and policies. If they don’t have an internal policy, it’s likely that they don’t know a thing about human rights. To get them to think about human rights, it is critical to use another language they will understand, the language of professionalism.To further insist on empowering local communities and civil society to act, Mr Okenda noted the critical importance of having decentralized human rights institutions, so that even communities far from Kinshasa could seek resources and assistance to combat violations and abuses. ‘There is a growing global move toward more participation of civil society, in decisions related the politics and planning, in addition to the implementation. We need to see this apply in the area of extractives as well.’ The participation at the global level of local communities in the conversation about human rights and businesses is important. But the ability to participate is limited, says Mr Okenda, and so while human rights are central to the resolution of the issue, they will always be limited by governments’ hypocrisy, by neoliberalism, the financial crisis, and other geostrategic concerns.

Mr Okenda is clear: risks do exist, for all human rights defenders, including intimidation, violent attacks, denunciation, and abusive prosecutions. For those working on investment and extractives issues, the problem is that these might sometimes be the very same individuals or institutions (e.g., government agencies) that are meant to be protecting the people.So, according to Mr Okenda, defenders face every day a personal dilemma – to do what they think is right and defend a community’s interests, or to protect their property and the lives of themselves and their families.  In addition to overt risks, some defenders face pressure from their families themselves, who worry about the impact of rights defence work on safety and security. ‘When the family becomes vulnerable, you are really weakened, too.’ Nonetheless, concludes Mr Okenda: Even if there are risks, even if we human rights defenders face failure or lose patience, it is essential to keep speaking out. Silence is the biggest threat.Mr Okenda remains optimistic in his work. Efforts to encourage the government to recognize human rights defenders, and – along with corporate actors – see defenders as partners as opposed to adversaries, will be key.

Source: Defender Profile: Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo | ISHR

Soraya Aziz Souleymane: a ‘business and human rights defender’ from the DRC

September 3, 2015

On 1 September 2015, the ISHR carried an interview with Soraya Aziz Souleymane, a business and human rights defender from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Soraya holds the role of Deputy Field Office Director in charge of The Carter Center’s Mining Governance Program in the DRC, part of a new generation of young activists and NGO workers dedicated to seeing their country reach its potential.

Soraya started managing grants to affected communities at a large mining company’s foundation. She described her frustrations with the limitations of working within the foundation; she had discovered that many of the decisions about where and how to disburse the funds had already been made as part of the initial negotiations with affected communities. She soon decided to move into the corporate structure itself.

[When I joined the corporation,] it was an exceptional time, because the company was just beginning work in a new area and there was a need for many people… so much so that I was able to create a whole community relations department from the ground up. 

Despite the positive experience of getting the first community relations department off the ground, Soraya said she still wasn’t satisfied. She described the realization of the limitations of working with projects, saying: My impact was limited just to this one small community. I couldn’t take those impacts and apply them to others. Also, all the policies had to be linked to production, to the generation of profit for stakeholders and investors. That’s how companies have always worked, and this was no different.

Feeling sidelined after production began at the mine, she joined The Carter Center’s office in 2014.

Soraya described her transition from private sector to civil society, highlighting both challenges and opportunities:

At the company, it was good – we had resources, support, the voice, we had almost immediate access to the ministries, no problem. A big challenge at The Carter Center is that we don’t have the same financial resources or the same level of influence. But other things are better, at least for me. My primary goal now at work is to change the situation of communities –  all communities – not simply to increase production or placate one group. 

Soraya also uses her new role to engage in direct advocacy with the DRC government.  As she said, the chance to influence the policies of the state is ultimately a great opportunity. She also emphasized the value of gaining perspective through exposure to different sectors, and dismissed the idea that working for a company was ‘treason’. Instead, she noted that this kind of movement back and forth, especially within a sector, can lead to a lot of evolution and changing perspectives. It can also lead to more cooperation. We’ve seen many times when civil society and companies have joined forced against the government to say, “No, that will not fly.” It’s a strategic alliance.

…….

And despite the challenges, Soraya has a passion to do this work, and an optimism about civil society. I think my background, the fact that I am Congolese and that I have worked in the sector means I have real interest in and capacity to influence what my country becomes – my children will grow up here. 

I am very optimistic because there are many young people who are innovators, who are open to new ideas, who are willing to sit down with a range of stakeholders. They are also willing to say to the international community, “No, we don’t need x, we need y.” 

And as for the government, the emphasis is also on frank discussion, even when there is a disagreement. As Soraya says, We must work with them for change – and we must be clear that this is not the same as working for them, as accepting the problem.

-See more at: Soraya Aziz Souleymane: Business and human rights defender from the DRC | ISHR

Human rights defenders in DRC get support from over 200 NGOs

June 18, 2015

On 15 June 2015, 0ver 200 human rights NGOs urge the Democratic Republic of Congo to show respect for freedom of expression and assembly by freeing the “Filimbi activists“.  Expression, Assembly The two activists were arrested three months ago, on 15 March during a pro-democracy youth workshop in the Democratic Republic of CongoFred Bauma and Yves Makwambala were arrested at the workshop organized to launch “Filimbi,” a platform to encourage Congolese youth to peacefully and responsibly perform their civic duties. Read the rest of this entry »