Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
Most of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) continued
to be ruled by President Laurent Desire Kabila, whose Alliance
of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL)
overthrew the authoritarian regime of Mobutu Sese Seko by armed
force in 1997. The State continued to be highly centralized formally--although
in practice the country's dilapidated transportation and communications
infrastructure impaired central Government control--and Kabila
continued to rule by decree, unconstrained by a Constitution or
a legislature. Although the Government finished a draft Constitution
in March, only portions of it had been published by year's end,
and Kabila continued to ban political party activity. The judiciary
continued to be subject to executive influence and corruption.
By year's end, the Government had lost control of more than
one-third of the country's territory to a rebel organization, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), dominated by members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. The rebellion started in early August, when Kabila tried to expel from the country Rwandan military forces that had helped him overthrow Mobutu, and upon which the Congolese Tutsis and the governments of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi all relied for protection from hostile nongovernmental armed groups operating out of the eastern part of the country. These groups included: the Interahamwe militia of ethnic Hutus, mostly from Rwanda, which fought the
Tutsi-dominated Government of Rwanda; Hutu members of the former
Rwandan Armed Forces, believed to be responsible for the 1994
genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, which also fought the Government
of Rwanda; the Mai Mai, a loose association of traditional Congolese
local defense forces, which fought the influx of Rwandan immigrants;
the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), made of up Ugandan expatriates
and supported by the Government of Sudan, which fought the Government
of Uganda; and several groups of Hutus from Burundi fighting the
Tutsi-dominated Government of Burundi. In the ensuing civil war,
elements of the armed forces of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda operated
inside the country in support of the rebels; elements of the armed
forces of Angola, Chad, Namibia, and Zimbabwe operated inside
the country in support of the Government; and the nongovernmental
armed groups mentioned above operated inside the country on the
side of the Government, often as guerrillas inside RCD-occupied
The Government's security forces consist of a national police
force under the Ministry of Interior, a National Security Council
(CNS), the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), and the Congolese
Armed Forces (FAC), which includes an office for the Military
Detection of Subversive Activities (DEMIAP). The police force,
reorganized in 1997, handles basic criminal cases. The CNS shares
responsibility for internal and external security with the ANR,
including border security matters. The FAC retains some residual
police functions. Military police have jurisdiction over armed
forces personnel. The security forces committed numerous, serious
human rights abuses.
Most sectors of the economy continued to decline. Production and
incomes continued to fall and the modern sector has virtually
disappeared. Physical infrastructure has suffered serious damage,
financial institutions have collapsed, and public education and
health have deteriorated. Annual per capita national income was
estimated at $115. Subsistence activities, a large informal sector,
and widespread barter characterized much of the economy. The insolvent
public sector could not provide even basic public services, and
external economic assistance remained limited.
The Kabila Government's already poor human rights record worsened
in several areas after the start of the civil war in August. Security
forces were responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings, disappearances,
torture, beatings, rape, and other abuses. The Kabila Government
continued its attempts to establish control over the security
forces, and a special military tribunal tried and executed several
dozen FAC members for various human rights abuses. Prison conditions
remained harsh and life-threatening. Security forces increasingly
used arbitrary arrest and detention throughout the year. Prolonged
pretrial detention remained a problem, and citizens often were
denied fair public trials. The special military tribunal tried
civilians for political offenses, and executed civilians with
limited due process protections. The judiciary remained subject
to executive influence, and continued to suffer from a lack of
resources, inefficiency, and corruption. It remained subject to
executive influence and largely ineffective as a deterrent to
human rights abuses or as a corrective force. Security forces
violated citizens' rights to privacy. Government security forces
used excessive force and committed violations of international
law in the civil war that started in August. Although a large
number of private newspapers often published criticism of the
Government, the Government restricted freedom of speech and the
press by harassing and arresting newspaper editors and journalists,
and seizing individual issues of publications, as well as by increasing
its restrictions on private radio broadcasting. The Government
severely restricted freedom of assembly and association. The law
continued to restrict the process for official recognition of
religious groups. The Government increased its restrictions on
freedom of movement, inaugurating exit visa requirements after
the start of the civil war. Citizens do not have the right to
change their government peacefully. The Government continued to
ban political party activity and used security services to stop
political demonstrations, resulting in arrests and detentions.
It also harassed and imprisoned members of opposition parties,
and exiled a principal political opponent to his home village,
although it later released him. The Government harassed human
rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). The Government banned
the human rights group AZADHO, one of the leading human rights
organizations, and seized copies of its annual report on human
rights. It also established a commission to review the "good
standing" of all human rights organizations. The Government
strongly resisted efforts by the United Nations to investigate
reports of massacres in 1996 and 1997, leading to the withdrawal
of the UN Investigative Team from the country. Violence against
women is a problem and rarely is punished. Female genital mutilation
persists among isolated populations in the north. Discrimination
against ethnic minorities and indigenous Pygmies is a problem.
After the start of the civil war, there was serious and widespread
discrimination and violence and extreme official prejudice against
members of the Tutsi ethic minority. Security forces extrajudicially
killed or summarily executed ethnic Tutsis and suspected rebels
in the capital, and detained civilian Tutsis at a Kinshasa military
camp. There were credible reports of beatings, rapes and extrajudicial
killings at this camp, and reports of killings and other abuses
of Tutsis elsewhere in the country by both security forces and
mobs. State-owned radio stations repeatedly broadcast hate messages,
sometimes issued by senior government officials, which may have
contributed to official and societal violence against Tutsis.
There are unconfirmed reports indicating that in August at least
some government military units received orders to execute all
Tutsis in those units or in the general population in the areas
where those units were stationed. Child labor remained a common
problem in the informal sector.
Some nongovernmental armed groups fighting on the side of the
Government, RCD forces, and mobs all committed many serious abuses,
including many extrajudicial killings or summary executions in
territories under their control.
Rebel forces committed extrajudicial killings in territories under
their control including the massacre of church and lay workers
on August 23, and shot down a civilian jetliner on October 10.
RCD forces were responsible for disappearances and reportedly
tortured, raped and detained many civilians. They also endangered
the civilian population of Kinshasa by cutting electricity and
disrupting the water supply and commercial food shipments during
an unsuccessful effort to take the capital in August.
Although it often was difficult for victims and witnesses to distinguish
RCD rebel forces from elements of the Rwandan army due to their
close cooperation and commonalities of language and equipment,
Rwandan army personnel also reportedly committed many serious
human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killing, torture
and rape. Although Angolan and Zimbabwean aircraft and artillery
bombed or shelled areas inhabited by civilians in Kinshasa and
Kisangani, there were few reports of human rights violations by
the elements of some foreign government armed forces operating
in the country, including the Chadian, Namibian, Ugandan and Zimbabwean
armed forces; there were reports that foreign armed forces on
both sides of the war sometimes restrained or mitigated the human
rights abuses of their Congolese allies, in particular by safeguarding
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
The security forces executed many unarmed civilians in Butembo
in North Kivu Province in late February for suspected collaboration
with local Mai Mai militias then hostile to the Kabila government.
These killings occurred after the FAC recaptured Butembo from
Mai Mai troops who earlier had taken it from government forces.
Estimates of the number of civilians killed range from 40 to 800.
Several local human rights groups put the death toll in the low
In March a teenage soldier killed a local volunteer of the International
Committee of the Red Cross following a disagreement about the
use of a plot of land for a soccer field. Within hours a special
military tribunal sentenced the soldier to death. President Kabila
commuted the sentence in April (see Section 1.e.).
During the civil war, there were many credible reports of executions
by security forces of ethnic Tutsis; these reports were particularly
numerous during the first month of the war (see Sections 1.g.
and 5). In Uvira, from August 2 to August 5, government troops
and Mai Mai carried out systematic house-to-house searches for
and killings of Tutsis. During the first week of August, local
youths whom FAC officers organized into paramilitary groups reportedly
killed as many as 250 civilians, mostly Tutsis or persons thought
to look like Tutsis, in the towns of Fizi and Uvira, on Lake Tanganyika
near Burundi. According to credible reports, during the 2 weeks
before the rebels took Kisangani on August 23, the Government's
provincial governor in that city, with the active collaboration
of the senior local officials of seven Government agencies: organized
a public hate campaign against Congolese Tutsis; organized the
arrest, detention, and torture of up to 130 Tutsis, persons believed
to look like Tutsis, and persons from the Kivu provinces where
the country's Tutsis are concentrated; and then directed the execution
and burial in mass graves near the airport of up to 100 of these
persons. During the first 2 weeks of their occupation of Kisangani,
the rebels reportedly uncovered the bodies of about 150 persons
killed during the days before the RCD too control of the city;
most were Tutsis, the rest were members of other ethnic groups
from the eastern region. Repeatedly during August, media owned
and controlled by the State publicized messages by government
officials that may have contributed to violence against domestic
Tutsi civilians (see Section 1.g.). On August 26, when rebel forces
were approaching Kinshasa, the Government encouraged the civilian
population of the capital to seek out possible rebels and rebel
sympathizers who might be hiding in the city. On August 27, mobs
in the capital killed, often by burning, a number of persons thought
to look like Tutsis or to be rebels in disguise, including some
mentally ill persons; some victims reportedly were buried alive
in the Masina and Kintambo neighborhoods of the capital, and fishermen
reportedly saw burned bodies floating in the Congo River.
Government-organized and government-incited extrajudicial killings
of Tutsis apparently diminished after the end of August, when
the rebels were driven back from the capital and international
criticism of these killings intensified. Nevertheless, civilian
deaths for which the Government and its supporters were responsible
continued to occur. On September 3, just before the rebels took
Kalemi, in the southeastern region, government troops and civilian
youth gangs reportedly burned to death a number of captured RCD
rebels. Credible reports indicate that between the start of the
war and year's end, about 28 persons detained by the military
died of starvation after being transferred from Kitona to a jail
in Lubumbashi (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.).
Unconfirmed but apparently distinct reports indicate that between
August 14 and August 26 at least some government military units
received orders, which some recipients allegedly believed to have
been issued by the Government to all brigades nationwide, to execute
all Tutsis in those units or in the general population in the
areas where those units were stationed.
Members of the security forces robbed, extorted and murdered civilians,
particularly in the east of the country before they lost control
of it. The military justice system, revised in 1997, prosecuted
FAC members for individual incidents ranging from armed robbery
to rape to murder, and several dozen were executed by order of
a special military tribunal at various times in various cities
(see Section 1.e.).
Harsh prison conditions and abuse led to an undetermined number
of deaths in prisons. Many prisoners died of illness or starvation
(see Section 1.c.).
Mob violence, at times instigated by government officials, resulted
During the civil war, rebel forces repeatedly committed mass extrajudicial
killings. In early August, rebel forces operating in the eastern
region reportedly executed large groups of captured government
soldiers, including a group at the airport at Bukavu, after they
refused to join the rebellion (see Section 1.g.). After taking
Uvira on August 6, the rebels committed a large but unknown number
of extrajudicial killings of civilians, reportedly in retaliation
for the Mai Mai and FAC massacres of Tutsis in Uvira a few days
earlier. On August 23 and 24, RCD forces reportedly killed hundreds
of unarmed civilians at and near Kasika, a Catholic church parish
in South Kivu Province; the RCD forces began these killings during
a religious service, shooting inside the church and killing the
priest and three nuns. The Kasika killings were apparently reprisals
for a nearby Mai Mai attack on RCD forces. On August 25, RCD forces
reportedly killed between several dozen and 200 unarmed civilians
at Makobola, near Uvira. On August 27, in Kazimia, near Fizi,
RCD rebels and members of the Burundian armed forces reportedly
killed more than 300 unarmed civilians. On September 1, RCD rebels
reportedly killed about 300 civilians in reprisal for a Mai Mai
attack. On September 4 and 5, RCD rebels reported killed dozens
of unarmed civilians in Kalemi, in reprisal for the killing of
RCD prisoners of war by FAC forces and local youths on September
3. On September 6, RCD rebels in Kabare reportedly killed about
150 civilians in reprisal for a nearby Mai Mai attack. Over a
3-day period beginning on December 30, RCD rebels at Makabola
reportedly killed hundreds of civilians following a fight on December
30 between RCD forces and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy,
a Burundian Hutu nongovernmental armed group. In addition to these
mass killings, there were many reports of smaller-scale extrajudicial
killings by members of the RCD forces from August through December.
Throughout the year, there were reports of Tutsis killing Hutus
in the eastern regions.
There were many reported cases of disappearance, most occurring
during the civil war. Both government and rebel forces reportedly
were responsible for the disappearance of many persons. The bodies
of many persons killed extrajudicially by both sides in the civil
war were burned, dumped in rivers, or buried in mass graves that
remain unopened, and neither side is known to have kept or released
records of the identities of the persons whom its forces killed
Throughout the year, security forces regularly held alleged suspects
in detention for varying periods of time before acknowledging
that they were actually in custody. Typical accounts described
unidentified assailants who abducted, threatened, and often beat
their victims before releasing them. Journalists and opposition
members claimed that they were targets of such actions.
In February the editor of the publication Economic Monitor reported
an attempt in Kinshasa by six agents of the ANR to abduct him.
According to the editor, when he resisted, the ANR agents attempted
to obtain reinforcements from a local police station, but the
policemen declined to assist them (see Section 2.a.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
Although the law forbids torture, security forces and prison officials
used torture, and often beat prisoners in the process of arresting
or interrogating them.
Authorities of the Kabila administration have not responded to
charges of inmate abuse and repeated beatings by its security
and prison officials.
Members of the security forces also raped, robbed, and extorted
money from civilians; some abusers were prosecuted (see Section
1.a.) Incidents of physical abuse by security forces occurred
during the arrest or detention of political opponents. Security
forces arrested Eugene Diomi, head of the political party Front
for the Survival of Democracy (FSD), at his home on December 11,
1997, raping two female relatives and stealing valuables. Diomi
was held at a military camp, and reportedly severely beaten on
a daily basis, until his provisional release under military guard
for medical care January 8.
In February, at the time of the arrest and exile of Democratic
Union for Social Progress (UDPS) party leader Etienne Tshisekedi
(see Section 1.d.), security forces detained several members of
the UPDS at his residence and physically abused them; they were
released several days later.
Also in February, Joseph Albert Mena, former member of the transitional
parliament during the Mobutu era, was arrested and beaten repeatedly
in the basement of an unofficial detention facility, following
his arrest during the transit of the presidential motorcade through
Kinshasa. Mena was shot at, and then arrested, after failing to
move his vehicle out of the way of the motorcade quickly enough.
Accused of attempting to assassinate the President, he was released
after a visiting presidential deputy chief of staff recognized
him at the detention facility and arranged his release.
On March 13, 5 members of the UDPS were arrested at the party
headquarters and physically abused in detention before their release
on March 14.
There were numerous reports of torture of Tutsi civilians and
captured rebels by government security forces during the civil
war. There were repeated reports of torture at a government detention
center for Tutsi civilians, Camp Kokolo in Kinshasa (see Section
1.d.). In August, persons who were determined not to be Tutsis
and released from Camp Kokolo reported seeing detainees there
whose ears had been cut off, and one person who had been disemboweled.
Members of the presidential guard beat and whipped persons evacuated
from the Burundian embassy in August. Military officers beat and
injured Ugandan diplomats being evacuated from the country at
Kinshasa's airport in August. Government officials tortured many
of the Tutsis and other easterners whom they arrested and many
of whom they killed at Kisangani before the city fell to the Rebels
on August 23; some of more than 30 persons who were arrested but
were not killed claimed to have been tortured.
Civilians detained by RCD rebel forces during the civil war claimed
to have suffered torture, including rape, whippings, severe beatings
that in some cases broke bones, and being forced to drink their
own urine. RCD forces reportedly arrested and raped more than
50 women and girls in the Katudu district of Bakuvu on September
The Kabila Government operated 220 known prisons and other places
of detention. In all such facilities, conditions remained harsh
and life threatening, although the Government undertook work at
Kinshasa's main prison, Makala, to improve conditions. The Kabila
administration provided food at some prisons, but not in sufficient
quantities to ensure adequate nutrition for all inmates. About
28 persons detained by the military died of starvation after being
transferred from Kitona to a jail in Lubumbashi (see Section 1.a.).
Prison conditions remained a threat to prisoners' lives. Living
conditions were harsh and unsanitary, and prisoners were poorly
treated. The penal system suffered from severe shortages of funds,
medical facilities, food, and trained personnel.
Overcrowding and corruption in the prisons are widespread. There
were reports of prisoners being beaten to death, tortured, deprived
of food and water, or dying of starvation. Prisoners are wholly
dependent on personal resources of family or friends for their
survival. Inmates at Makala central prison in Kinshasa sleep on
the floor without bedding and have no access to sanitation, potable
water, or adequate health care. Tuberculosis, red diarrhea, and
other infectious diseases are rampant. Although authorities do
not target women for abuse, prison guards rape female inmates.
The use of unpublicized and unofficial detention sites by the
civil and military authorities circumvented humanitarian groups'
access to many prisoners and detainees. The ICRC was denied access
to these sites, and to regular detention facilities, including
facilities where the Government incarcerated Tutsi civilians during
the civil war.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Despite legal provisions governing arrest and detention procedures,
the security forces were responsible for numerous cases of arbitrary
arrest and detention.
Under the law, serious offenses (those punishable by more than
6 months' imprisonment) do not require a warrant for a suspect's
arrest. Only a law enforcement officer with "judicial police
officer" status is empowered to authorize arrest. This status
also is vested in senior officers of the security services. The
law instructs security forces to bring detainees to the police
within 24 hours. The law also provides that detainees must be
charged within 24 hours and be brought within 48 hours before
a magistrate, who may authorize provisional detention for varying
In practice these provisions often were violated. The security
forces, especially those carrying out the orders of any official
who could claim authority, used arbitrary arrest to intimidate
outspoken opponents and journalists. Charges rarely were filed,
and the political motivation for such detentions was often obscure.
When the authorities did press charges, the claims they filed
were sometimes contrived or recitations of archaic colonial regulations.
Detention without charge has been a frequent problem under the
Kabila administration. On December 4, 1997, British Broadcasting
Company journalist Mossi Mwassi, reputedly a South African citizen,
was arrested by security forces and charged with endangering state
security, apparently for having attended a press conference given
by opposition politician Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma. Mwassi was released
on April 11.
On December 26, 1997, security forces detained 123 Congolese citizens,
expelled en masse from Angola for lack of proper legal status,
on suspicion of being members of the Mobutu-era military. They
were held without charge and shuttled through various detention
facilities prior to their release on January 18.
On January 19, the Government detained three members of the Solidarite
trade union after one of them criticized officials of the transportation
parastatal on television, regarding treatment of parastatal workers.
The Government released the unionists in May.
On January 20, security agents arrested Joseph Olenghankoy, head of the political party Innovative Forces for Unity and Solidarity (FONUS), on unspecified charges (see Section 1.e.). Two other FONUS officials, Paul Kasongo and Athenase Oyumbo, were arrested on January 28, then released on January 30, while Oyumbo was
re-arrested on January 31, all without explanation by authorities.
Oyumbo subsequently was tried by a military tribunal and acquitted
May 19. Olenghankoy, who escaped briefly in April with two other
prominent prisoners, Z'Ahidi Ngoma and Commandant Masasu, from
a prison in Lubumbashi, subsequently was tried by a military tribunal
and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in May (see Section 1.e.).
On January 27, security forces arrested several traditional leaders
of the Bashi ethnic group in South Kivu province, together with
three academics from local universities and several opposition
party officials, on suspicion of sympathizing with Mai Mai militia.
Most were released within several days, but the academics were
transferred to Kinshasa, and held without charge until mid-April.
On February 12, security agents arrested UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi
at his home, 2 days after he met with a foreign envoy, and 2 days
before a scheduled rally in honor of the 1982 founding of the
party. He then was sent into internal exile at his home village
of Kabeya-Kamwanga in East Kasai province. A number of UDPS officials
were arrested subsequently, held without charge, and released
within several days. The Government released Tshisekedi from internal
exile in early July, and he returned to Kinshasa.
The Government arrested journalist Albert Bonsange Yema on February
12 for an article he published in the newspaper L'Alarme that
criticized the arrest of Joseph Olaghankoy. In May the State Security
Court tried him for endangering state security and sentenced him
to 1 year in prison.
On February 25, security forces arrested Modest Mutinga, editor
of the newspaper Le Potential, after he claimed in an article
that some Kasaians in Kabila's Government were unhappy over the
arrest of Tshisekedi. Mutinga was set free on February 28.
On March 13, five members of the UDPS were arrested at the party
headquarters, supposedly for flying the party flag, and released
the following day (see Section 1.c.). Furniture and documents
also were seized by government agents.
On April 11, five ANR agents arrested Michel Ladi Luya, editor
of the newspaper Le Palmares, at the newspaper's offices, apparently
for publishing an open letter from Etienne Tshisekedi on April
9. Luya was released without explanation on April 13.
On April 27, ANR agents arrested Paul Nsapu and Sabin Banza of
the Electorate's League (Ligue des Electeurs), following their
departure from the Belgian embassy, where they had just signed
an aid project contract and received embassy funds for that purpose.
They were held on suspicion of being "spies" for foreign
governments and remained in custody until early September.
On May 8, government security forces briefly detained two NGO
leaders in North Kivu, Immaculee Birhaheka of PAIF (Promotion
of Women's Initiatives), and Brigitte Mutambale of GEAD (Study
and Action Group for Development). Birhaheka was arrested briefly
after having met with a representative of an international democracy
NGO, but was not held.
Also on May 8, authorities detained Human Rights Watch researcher
Suliman Baldo at the end of a 3-week official mission to the country,
was detained for 24 hours at the airport in Kinshasa before they
allowed him to leave (see Section 4).
On May 15, Pascale Kambale, vice president of the Zairian Association
for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO) and an AZADHO colleague
were arrested by security agents May 15, following a press conference
held by the two activists. The government had banned AZADHO formally
in April (see Section 4), and apparently considered the press
conference a violation of that banning order. The two were released
On May 18, the director of Congolese National Television and Radio
(RTNC) and four colleagues were arrested by government agents
following a televised program on atrocities in Africa that apparently
was considered an affront to President Kabila. Three of them were
released June 3, with the director and one other held until June
On May 21, security forces arrested Thierry Kyalumba Kabonga, managing editor of The Vision newspaper, and charged him with propagation of false rumors, for an article about the
not-yet-released Congo franc. He was released on June 23.
On May 23, DEMIAP detained Kidimbu Mpese and Awazi-Karhomon of
the newspaper Le Soft for an UDPS-sponsored article critical of
Kabila that appeared in the Brussels edition of Le Soft. They
were detained until June 8, 1998.
Also on May 23, security forces arrested several government ministers
on corruption charges: Information Minister Raphael Ghenda, Minister
Florent Kambale, Energy Minister Pierre Lokombe Kitete, Plan Minister
Etiene-Richard Mbaya, and Vice-Minister for Portfolio Biselele
Kanumutambi. At year's end they remained in detention.
In early July, following the release from internal exile of Etienne
Tshisekedi, security forces detained without charge approximately
40 of his followers and senior UDPS party officials in raids on
his residence and elsewhere in the capital. All but one (UDPS
advisor Marcel Mbayo) were released within 1 or 2 weeks. Mbayo
remained in detention until early September, 1998.
On August 20, government security forces reportedly arrested two
Agence France Press reporters at Kasumbalesa, a crossing point
on the Zambian border, accused them of being spies, and detained
them until August 22, when they expelled the journalists from
Government security forces in Kinshasa reportedly arrested seven
journalists employed by the state-owned radio station, La Voix
du Peuple, on September 9 and again on September 18, detaining
them for 10 days on the second occasion, on suspicion of having
links with the RCD.
Former Finance Minister Fernand Tala Ngai was detained without
charge in a Kinshasa prison from mid-October until the end of
the year on suspicion of having used his office to pay contracts
to members of President Mobutu's Mouvement Populaire de la Revolution
(MPR) party, instead of paying civil servant salaries.
On October 13, police reportedly arrested and detained Belly Bosange
and Albert Tumba, two journalists of Alerte, a Kinshasa newspaper,
for publishing a false report that the Interior Minister had defected
to the rebels. On October 30, DEMIAP officers reportedly arrested
and detained a third Alerte journalist, Jean-Marie Nkanku, after
Alerte published a photograph showing the Interior Minister with
an RCD leader. Of these Alerte journalists, only Bosange remained
in custody at year's end, serving a 1-year sentence pursuant to
a trial in a military court.
On October 29, security forces in Kananga reportedly arrested
and detained Baya Mukotso, a journalist for La Destinee newspaper,
after the newspaper criticized the governor of Kasai Orientale
Province. Also on October 29, ANR officers arrested and detained
Bayard Kabango Mbaya, a journalist with La Flamme du Congo, a
Kinshasa newspaper, after the newspaper published an article alleging
corruption on the part of Kabila's Chief of Cabinet. He was freed
on November 4, when security forces arrested and detained another
La Flamme journalist, Gustave Kalenga, in connection with the
On November 5, security forces in Kinshasa reportedly arrested
and briefly detained Awozi Kharomon, editor-in-chief of Le Soft,
a Kinshasa newspaper owned by former Mobutu aid and RCD supporter
Kin-Kiey Mulumba, and two other journalists employed by the newspaper,
after it reported that a Western government had suggested that
Kabila either resign or negotiate with the RCD. All three journalists
were released on November 7.
On November 13, Minister of Health Jean-Baptiste Sondji was dismissed
from his ministry and arrested for telling a Western government's
international radio news service that the Minister of Justice
alone had determined which opinion groups were consulted about
a proposal for a new Constitution. He was detained for 3 days
and released on November 16.
In mid-November authorities arrested former Finance Minister Tala
Ngai. He remained in custody at year's end. His case was to be
heard by a military tribunal, but no date had been set.
On December 15, authorities arrested activists of the PALU opposition
party; they were released the following day.
Several dozen high officials of the Mobutu regime, arrested by
the Government in June 1997 for corruption, were released during
the year. The Government released 26 on February 18, 16 were set
entirely free, but subject to further legal action, and 10 were
kept under a form of house arrest. In March another 11 were released,
at least 1 after reportedly paying a substantial sum of money
Professor Kalele Ka Bila and free-lance journalist Jean-Francois
Kabanda, both UDPS supporters, were detained in October 1997 for
allegedly distributing a document calling on citizens to overthrow
the "Tutsi invaders." They were convicted in May by
a special military tribunal and given 2-year sentences (see Section
Roger Sala Nzo Badila and Professor Nyabirungu Mwene Songa, leaders
of the National Human Rights Center (CENADHO), were detained in
November 1997 for publishing an unflattering report of the Kabila
Government's human rights record. They were on released uncharged
Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma was arrested on November 24, 1997 with three colleagues from the political think tank Forces du Futur for violating the ban on public political activities. He was convicted by a military tribunal in May and given a suspended
12-month sentence and released (see Section 1.e.).
Commandant Enselme Masasu, a founder of the ADFL, was arrested
on November 26, 1997 and later accused by President Kabila of
a series of crimes, including drug trafficking and maintaining
private prisons. He was tried by a military tribunal in May and
sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment (see Section 1.e.).
Pastor Theodore Ngoy was arrested on December 17, 1997 after he
accused President Kabila at a church-run seminar of generating
a cult of personality. He remained in detention until July 2.
In August the Government systematically arrested and detained
Tutsi civilians throughout the country. Many were killed (see
Section 1.a.) and some were tortured (see Section 1.c.). However,
many survived. At year's end, at least 130 Tutsis remained detained
without charge at Camp Kokolo in Kinshasa, and at least 520 more
remained detained without charge in Katanga, President Kabila's
home province. Hundreds--perhaps thousands--of Tutsis remained
incarcerated, ostensibly for their own protection. The Government
granted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access
to at least some of these detainees. The Government also held
prisoners of war after August, but little is known about its treatment
of them. However, the ICRC did have access to prisoners of war.
At year's end, the Government held fewer than a dozen political
detainees, excluding Tutsis and prisoners of war.
During the civil war, RCD rebel forces reportedly detained persons
repeatedly. Many of those whom the rebels detained were Hutus.
The rebels also detained, and allowed the International Committee
of the Red Cross to visit, many prisoners of war. However, the
RCD was not reported to have held large numbers of persons in
prolonged detention on the basis of their ethnicity.
Although the law prohibits and the Government did not practice
forced exile, the Government sent UDPS party leader Etienne Tshisekedi
into internal exile at his home village in East Kasai on February
12, releasing him in July.
Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Transitional Act of the Mobutu regime and Kabila's Decree
Law No. 3 provide for the independence of the judiciary; however,
in practice the judiciary was not independent of the executive
branch, which could and did manipulate it. The Kabila administration
did not establish mechanisms to ensure the independence of the
judiciary by year's end. A judicial reform decree, reportedly
awaiting presidential approval since 1997, was not promulgated.
The judiciary also is ineffective and suffers from corruption.
The judiciary includes lower courts, appellate courts, the Supreme
Court, the Court of State Security, and a new military tribunal
organized in August 1997. This tribunal ordered the executions
of dozens of soldiers and civilians in Bukavu, Goma, Kinshasa,
and Lubumbashi during the year for various violent criminal offenses,
including murder and armed robbery. Local human rights groups
expressed concern at the summary nature of the justice dispensed
by this military court, with no automatic right of appeal to a
higher court, and many of the accused apparently lacking defense
counsel. The tribunal also began to sentence civilians for nonviolent
offenses with political overtones.
In May a university lecturer, Kalele Ka Bila, and a free-lance
journalist, Jean-Francois Kabanda, received 2-year sentences for
spreading false rumors, after originally being charged with endangering
state security. They allegedly published an article appealing
to ethnic prejudices in advocating resistance to "Tutsi invaders"
(see Section 2.a.).
Also in May, the special military tribunal tried Commandant Anselme
Masasu, co-founder of the ADFL, Arthur Z'Ahidi, head of Forces
du Futur, and Joseph Olenghankoy, head of FONUS, on various charges.
Masasu received a 20 year sentence for treason, Z'Ahidi, a 12-month
suspended sentence for violating the political ban, and Olenghankoy
15 years also for violating the ban on political activity. Many
observers considered all three sentences to be politically motivated;
Olenghankoy and Z'Ahidi were heads of opposition political parties,
and Masasu was a potential rival to President Kabila within the
Also in May, journalist Albert Bonsange Yema, who was arrested
by the Government February 12 for an article criticizing the arrest
of Joseph Olenghankoy, was convicted by the State Security Court
on the charge of endangering state security and sentenced to 1
year in prison (see Section 2.a.).
Civil and criminal codes are based on Belgian and customary law.
The Legal Code provides for the right to a speedy public trial,
the presumption of innocence, and legal counsel at all stages
of proceedings. Defendants have the right to appeal in all cases
except those involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling,
all of which are adjudicated by the Court of State Security, and
cases adjudicated by the special military tribunal, whose jurisdiction
appears ill defined. The law provides for court-appointed counsel
at state expense in capital cases, in all proceedings before the
Supreme Court, and in other cases when requested by the court.
The Kabila administration has not stated a position on providing
counsel, but has done so at its discretion.
Corruption remains pervasive, particularly among magistrates,
who are very poorly and intermittently paid and poorly trained.
The system remains hobbled by major shortages of personnel, supplies,
and infrastructure. The Kabila Government has acknowledged that
the judiciary is dysfunctional, and took one step to improve it
by firing 315 magistrates in October, and hiring others.
At year's end there were fewer than a dozen known political prisoners,
including Anselme Masasu and Joseph Olengansky.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Security forces routinely ignored legal provisions for the inviolability
of the home and of private correspondence. They ignored the requirement
for a search warrant, entering and searching homes at will. Opposition
party leaders' residences often were raided by police, with arrests
made and files seized. (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.) The headquarters
of various political parties were under surveillance (see Section
2.b.) The Government is widely believed to monitor telephone communications.
According to an Amnesty International Report, the FAC, the RCD,
and the Rwandan Armed Forces used forcible conscription, and many
of those forced to enlist were children. However, most such abuses
were attributed to the rebels and the Rwandans.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law In
During the last 5 months of the year, there was a civil war with external intervention on both sides. The war began in early August, when Kabila tried to expel from the country Rwandan military forces that had helped him overthrow Mobutu. Congolese Tutsis and the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi all relied on these Rwandan forces for protection from hostile nongovernmental armed groups operating out of the eastern part of the country. These groups included: the Interahamwe militia of ethnic Hutus, mostly from Rwanda, which fought the
Tutsi-dominated Government of Rwanda; Hutu members of the former
Rwandan Armed Forces believed to be responsible for the 1994 genocide
of Tutsis in Rwanda, which also fought the Government of Rwanda;
the Mai Mai, a loose association of traditional Congolese local
defense forces, which fought the influx of Rwandan immigrants;
the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), made of up Ugandan expatriates
and supported by the Government of Sudan, which fought the Government
of Uganda; and several groups of Hutus from Burundi fighting the
Tutsi-dominated Government of Burundi. Consequently, Kabila's
attempt to expel the Rwandan armed forces was frustrated by the
outbreak on August 2 of a rebellion, led by a group that called
itself the Congolese Rally for Democracy. The RCD was dominated
by members of the Tutsi ethnic minority, but from the outset depended
heavily on troops, materiel, and direction from the Government
of Rwanda and, to a lesser extent, the Governments of Uganda and
Burundi. The rebellion began in the eastern provinces of the Kivus
and spread to the province of Lower Congo immediately to the southwest
of Kinshasa, as rebels and their allies attempted to capture the
capital and overthrow the Kabila Government in late August. Military
intervention by Angola, Chad, Namibia, and Zimbabwe on the side
of the Government resulted in the defeat of the rebel drive on
Kinshasa and the rapid extirpation of rebel forces in Lower Congo.
However, the rebels continued to win ground in the eastern provinces.
At year's end, the RCD controlled more than one-third of the country's
territory. Elements of the armed forces of Burundi, Rwanda, and
Uganda continued to operate inside the country in support of the
rebels; elements of the armed forces of Angola, Chad, Namibia,
and Zimbabwe operated inside the country in support of the Government;
and the nongovernmental armed groups operated inside the country
on the side of the Government, often as guerrillas inside RCD-occupied
territory. In this conflict, both sides repeatedly used excessive
force and committed numerous abuses.
There were reports that in August some government military units
received orders instructing them to kill all Tutsis in those units
or in the civilian population of the areas in which those units
were stationed (see Section 1.a.). There were reports, at least
some of them credible, of mass killings of ethnic Tutsis by security
forces in cities and towns in the eastern regions, typically days
or hours before these towns or cities were captured by the rebels
(see Section 1.a.). Government security forces conducted mass
arrests of Tutsis at many locations in August and detained at
least hundreds of Tutsis in Kinshasa and Katanga Province through
the end of the year; there were reports of torture and killings
of some of these detainees (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.d.).
During the rebels' August march on Kinshasa, and for several days
in late August when rebel troops successfully infiltrated the
city and fought street battles with government troops, there were
many credible reports of executions by security forces of ethnic
Tutsis and of suspected rebels. Although precise estimates are
unavailable, these included the random killing of those suspected
of being Tutsis, or of aiding the Tutsi rebels. In many cases,
suspected rebels were stopped at impromptu checkpoints and killed
on the spot. Mobs of civilians also took to the streets, burning
suspected rebels alive with tires around their necks filled with
gasoline. (See Section 1.a.)
During the rebel march on Kinshasa in August, government and private
media publicized remarks by government officials calling on the
general population to fight and kill the "Tutsi" or
"Rwandan" invaders. Some of these appeals called for
the eradication of Tutsis in the Congo. These statements may have
contributed to widespread societal and official extrajudcial killings
of Tutsi civilians in August. However, later public statements
by the FAC called for civilians to turn over suspected rebels
to the FAC unharmed. The FAC later reportedly arrested some soldiers
involved in abuses of civilians, subjected them to corporal punishment,
and began investigations of their acts through the military justice
system. However, it was not known at year's end whether the Government
had punished any soldiers or officials for killing unarmed Tutsi
civilians or unarmed suspected rebels during the civil war.
Security forces also began round-ups of ethnic Tutsi civilians
during the early days of the rebellion, holding approximately
170 civilians at the FAC's Camp Kokolo in Kinshasa, and reportedly
holding more civilians at other detention facilities in the city
(see Section 1.d.). Credible reports of beatings, rapes, and killing
of civilians at Camp Kokolo and the other facilities were received
throughout the rebel offensive on Kinshasa (see Section 1.c.).
The Government recruited soldiers as young as 10 years old. There
were also credible reports that during August government authorities
in some areas hastily organized youth paramilitary groups and
urged them to seek out and destroy suspected rebels, notably including
Tutsis. According to credible reports, the RCD deployed hastily
conscripted and poorly trained child soldiers, some only 10 to
12 years old. In May the UN Secretary General's Investigative
Team for the Congo issued its report on serious human rights and
humanitarian law violations from March 1993 to May 1997. Regarding
allegations of massacres during the 1996-97 rebellion, the report
concluded that in October and November 1996, ADFL troops played
a lead role in attacking refugees camps in North and South Kivu
that housed both unarmed civilians and armed soldiers and militia.
The report notes that senior Rwandan officials have admitted publicly
that Rwandan forces participated in the attacks.
The attacks caused heavy casualties among the civilian population.
In some cases attacking troops deliberately executed unarmed persons,
including women and children. In Magunga camp, hundreds of unarmed
persons were captured and executed by attacking troops. The report
further concludes that many of the Hutu refugees who fled the
camps into the interior of the Congo were hunted down and killed
deliberately by ADFL troops and Mai Mai militia. In February,
March and April 1997, ADFL troops deliberately killed groups of
unarmed civilians during attacks on refugee camps set up in the
Congolese interior to receive those fleeing North and South Kivu.
The report acknowledges that the number of victims, and the extent
of Rwandan participation in these attacks, is unknown. The report
concludes that in May 1997, ADFL troops, apparently under the
effective command of the Rwandan army, killed hundreds of Rwandan
Hutus in Mbandaka and Wendji.
The report also notes the impediments raised by the Kabila Government
to the investigation (see Section 4), which resulted in little
testimony and made it impossible to confirm or disprove most of
the allegations concerning serious violations of human rights
and humanitarian law.
There were reports of indiscriminate bombing of the city of Kisangani,
after its seizure by rebel forces, by several Angolan and/or Zimbabwean
jets in late August, with loss of life among the civilian population.
There were many reports, at least some of them credible, that
rebel forces committed mass extrajudicial killings on several
occasions, usually in reprisal either for mass killings of Tutsis
in the same area by government forces and local paramilitary groups,
or for attacks in the same area on RCD forces by local paramilitary
groups such as the Mai Mai (see Section 1.a.). For example, there
were credible reports that rebel troops killed Catholic clerics
and lay persons at a mission in South Kivu August 23 and 24, as
an indiscriminate reprisal attack for an earlier ambush of rebel
forces. Estimates of the number of persons killed ranged from
several dozen to over 200 (see Section 1.a.).
During their August operations in Lower Congo province, rebel
forces seized Inga Dam, the principal source of electricity for
Kinshasa, and the port of Matadi, the capital's principal source
of foodstuffs. Rebels subsequently cut the power to Kinshasa several
times, and disrupted the normal course of commercial shipments
to the city, causing serious shortages of food supplies and endangering
medical services and the water supply. On October 10, a civilian
airliner was shot down near Kindu, killing approximately 40 passengers
whom the Government claimed were civilians, mostly women and children.
Rebel leaders admitted downing the aircraft, but claimed that
it was ferrying government troops.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Statutes that predate Decree-law No. 3 provide for these rights,
and remain in effect; however, in practice the Government restricted
these rights. Incidents of harassment, intimidation, and detention
of journalists declined immediately after Kabila overthrew Mobutu,
but increased toward the end of 1997. The increased harassment
and arrest of journalists continued unabated into 1998 (see Section
1.d.). Of the many journalists who were arrested and detained,
few were tried; most were released after a few days. However,
several journalists were sentenced to jail terms by the special
military tribunal or the State Security Court (see Section 1.e.).
Charges in these courts were usually for treason or offenses against
state security. Criminal libel laws exist, but were not used against
Almost 400 newspapers were licensed to publish, but only a score
appeared regularly in Kinshasa. There was also an active private
press in Lubumbashi, and some private newspapers published in
other provincial cities. Of the Kinshasa-based newspapers, seven
were dailies; the rest of the newspapers that appeared regularly
were published between one and three times a week. Most private
news publications relied on external financing, often from political
parties and individual politicians. News publications tended to
emphasize editorial commentary and analysis rather than factual
descriptions of events; many are highly critical of the Government.
Government security forces sometimes seized individual issues
of various newspapers or printing equipment. In January soldiers
seized three printers from the offices of the magazine Le Moniteur
de L'Economie. In February and again in March, several thousand
copies of Le Soft International, printed in Brussels and distributed
in the Congo, were seized at the airport and burned. Also in March,
authorities seized 1600 copies of AZADHO's annual report on human
rights in the Congo (see Section 4). In May, authorities pressured
opposition newspapers into running a series of progovernment articles
supposedly authored by a foreign professor. In November, security
forces arresting journalists at the offices of Le Soft (see Section
1.d.) also seized much of that newspaper's equipment, leaving
it virtually unable to operate through year's end.
The newspaper industry is regulated by a press law enacted in
1996. Publishers must continue to deposit copies of their publications
with the Information Ministry. However, there is no longer a formal
Due to limited literacy and the higher costs of newspapers and
television, radio remained the most important medium of public
information. At year's end, seven private radio stations operated
in Kinshasa alone. In 1997, the Kabila Government lifted the Mobutu
regime's ban on news programming on private radio. However, private
radio was markedly less critical of the Government than private
newspapers. The Government's licensing of radio broadcasting appeared
to be nonrestrictive and nondiscriminatory. However, the Kabila
Government has closed down private radio stations because they
broadcast news unfavorable to the Government or commentary critical
of the Government. In April the Government shut down Radio Amani,
a privately-owned radio station affiliated with the Catholic Church,
because it carried British Broadcasting Company news programming
and commentary unfavorable to the Government.
Five television stations broadcast in the Kinshasa area. One was
state-controlled, four were privately owned.
Foreign source broadcasts were also available through local outlets.
In the spring the Government attempted to restrict access to foreign
source news broadcasts. However, after protests from independent
media and dissention within the government, the broadcasts resumed.
At year's end, there were two domestic Internet service providers.
Because of technical difficulties and high costs, the Internet
is not widely used.
There are no overtly government-controlled newspapers. However,
the editors of at least two newspapers, L'Avenir and L'Ouragon,
work respectively at the Presidency and the Ministry of Justice.
Le Forum and Les Palmares have close ties to the security services.
Only Les Palmares appears daily; its editor traveled to Europe
with Kabila in December. State-owned radio and television operate
throughout the country; some of its broadcasting facilities were
in rebel hands between August and year's end. Government radio
and television did not exercise editorial independence. The head
of the state-owned broadcasting company and several colleagues
were arrested briefly after the company broadcast a television
program on human rights atrocities in Africa (see Section 1.d.).
Opposition parties were unable to gain access to state-owned broadcast
During the civil war, members of the government security forces
repeatedly have detained foreign journalists, including employees
of the Associated Press, Reuters, and the World Television Network,
and reportedly have beaten some of them. In August government
security forces detained two Agence France Press journalists and
expelled them from the country (see Section 1.d.).
Academic freedom generally is respected. In January three academics
at regional universities in the province of South Kivu were detained
without charge until mid-April on suspicion of sympathizing with
Mai Mai militia.
Little reliable information on freedom of the press and academic
freedom in rebel-held areas was available. However, RCD authorities
reportedly restricted these rights. Amnesty International reported
that many university campuses were closed and students threatened
after some students reportedly verbally challenged Ernest Wamba
dia Wamba, the RCD political leader, during a public meeting in
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
There is no legal protection for freedom of assembly, and the
Government continued to restrict this right severely. The Government
considers the rights to assemble and associate subordinate to
the maintenance of "public order." The Government requires
all organizers to apply for permits, which are granted or rejected
at the Government's discretion. Public activities generally are
dispersed by government security services. After the arrest of
UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi and several other party officials
in February (see Section 1.d.), the Ministry of the Interior issued
an announcement reminding the public that demonstrations disrupting
public order were strictly banned and would be punished severely.
The law provides no protection for freedom of association, and
the Government severely restricted this right. Upon assuming power
in 1997, the Kabila government suspended political party activities,
but not political parties themselves. Kabila announced in November
that the ban on political party activity would be lifted in January,
1999. Individuals from parties outside the ADFL served in Kabila's
Government, but in their individual capacities (see Section 3).
Political party offices by and large remained open and parties
continued internal administrative functions, although the headquarters
of the UDPS were closed at mid-year and were used as a police
station. At different times and for different periods, the headquarters
of various political parties were under surveillance, padlocked,
or patrolled by soldiers. The Government effectively prevented
public political gatherings, although opposition party leaders
remained able to conduct small, private meetings. The effect of
the party suspensions varied widely throughout the country, but
was enforced less strictly in some provinces.
In theory anyone wishing to form a new political party would be
able to do so by registering with the Minister of Interior. No
one has tried to do so since Kabila overthrew Mobutu. Nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's) are required to register with the Minister
of Justice, filing copies of internal regulations and organizational
structure. Following the banning of AZADHO in April (see Section
4), the Government announced that a commission would review the
registration of other human rights NGO's to determine their "good
standing" with the Government. These NGO's were given 3 days
to update materials on file at the Justice Ministry. Of 132 organizations
that complied, the Government subsequently declared only 22 to
be in good standing. The legal status of those not approved by
the government was unclear; many continued to function.
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is recognized, and the Government generally
respected this right in practice, with the reservation that the
expression of this right neither disturb public order nor contradict
commonly held morals. The process for official recognition of
religious groups is simple and was not abused; exemption from
taxation is among the benefits of official recognition as a religious
organization. There is no legally established or favored church
or religion. The population is believed to be about 50 percent
Catholic, 20 percent Protestant, and 10 percent Muslim.
Security forces detained Pastor Ngoy Ilunga for 4 days in December
1997 for criticizing President Kabila and his Government during
a church-sponsored seminar. Ngoy was taken into detention again
on December 16, 1997, and was released on July 2.
In April, the Ministry of the Interior banned the operations of
Radio Amani, the Catholic Church station in Kisangani, ostensibly
because it lacked proper operating licenses (see Section 2.a.).
A 1971 law regulating religious organizations grants civil servants
the power to establish and dissolve religious groups. Although
this law restricts the process for official recognition, officially
recognized religions are free to establish places of worship and
to train clergy.
Many recognized churches have external ties, and foreigners are
allowed to proselytize. The Government generally did not interfere
with foreign missionaries. There has been no known persecution
of Jehovah's Witnesses or any other groups for practicing their
faith in recent years.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration,
Although the law allows for freedom of movement, the Government,
and in particular the security forces acting independently, continued
to restrict this freedom and the Government increased its restrictions
after the civil war began. The civil war also brought new restrictions
on internal travel even within the government-controlled and rebel-controlled
zones, and made movement between the two zones difficult and dangerous.
Even before the civil war, security forces throughout the country
established and manned many roadblocks at which they demanded
that travelers produce documents and bribes. There were far more
such roadblocks than could be justified by public safety considerations;
both their numbers and the conduct of the security force members
manning them indicated that their main function was to enable
security force members to supplement their below-subsistence official
wages. This made internal travel costlier, more time-consuming
and more dangerous, since violence including shootings was not
uncommon at these roadblocks. However, before the outbreak of
the civil war, the number of such roadblocks and the extortion
committed by those who manned them had diminished after Kabila
overthrew the insolvent Mobutu regime.
After the start of the civil war, the Government began to require
exit visas for all foreign travel. No data on the refusal rate
for exit visa applications was available; there was one known
case in which a political leader was denied an exit visa during
the year. Security forces occasionally hindered foreign travel
by citizens, including journalists. For example, on July 11, the
editor of Le Potential, Modest Mutinga, was detained for 4 hours
at Njili International Airport in Kinshasa; his papers were confiscated,
and his luggage was searched. The Government imposed a curfew
in Kinshasa from midnight to 6 a.m., and prohibited vehicles from
entering the city after dark. These restrictions were still in
effect at year's end.
There reportedly was substantial freedom of movement within the
rebel-controlled territories. However, travel across the war front
was often inconvenient and sometimes impossible.
The significant risk of rape, sometimes perpetrated by uniformed
persons, restricts freedom of movement at night for women in many
neighborhoods. Groups of citizens implemented neighborhood watch
programs, but women in many parts of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi do
not leave their homes at night for fear of attack.
The country is a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating
to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as to
the Organization of African Unity's 1969 Refugee Convention. The
Government continued to provide first asylum. Tens of thousands
of refugees were accepted into the country following the outbreak
of civil war in the Republic of Congo in June 1997. Refugees from
Uganda and Angola also continued to live in the country.
The Government's cooperation with the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) and other international agencies fluctuated widely.
The Government denied the UNHCR access to various groups of refugees
scattered around the country. During the High Commissioner's February
visit, she was not allowed to visit Goma. In April three local
UNHCR staff members were arrested, briefly detained, and mistreated.
The Government's policy toward Burundian Hutu refugees often has
varied from its stated view that the situation in Burundi precludes
forcible repatriation. On April 1, Government military authorities
delivered an ultimatum to the local UNHCR office, threatening
expulsion of all 6,500 Burundian refugees who had recently arrived,
unless they were repatriated by April 5. On April 3, the authorities
agreed to allow the refugees to stay but required male refugees
to transfer to another location. Approximately 250 of these refugees,
including men, women, and children, were returned forcibly to
Burundi on April 6. This action may have been taken by the military
without consultation with the central Government.
The UNHCR signed two tripartite agreements concerning the mutual
return of refugees on April 25 and 26, the first with the Government
and Uganda, and the second with the Government and Burundi. The
Government's insistence that no new camps be constructed for refugees
in the east complicated the ability of the UNHCR to assist new
refugees. However, the Government agreed that those determined
to be refugees by the UNHCR would be "treated according to
international accords," and it apparently accepted the concept
of temporary sites. Another accord between the Government and
Burundi on June 13 formulated plans for the return of Congolese
refugees in Burundi and Burundian refugees in South Kivu, including
those who did not wish to be repatriated.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the right to change their government peacefully.
Citizens have not been able to change their government through
free elections since independence in 1960.
In his May 1997 inaugural address, President Kabila promised a
constitution and elections by 1999. After several months of delay,
in October 1997 the Government completed the first series of steps
in the Government's announced election calendar, including the
creation of a Constitutional Commission. The Commission finished
a draft constitution in March, accompanied by a list of approximately
250 persons who were potentially excludable from public office
for commission of economic crimes or human rights abuses. Many
prominent politicians from the Mobutu era were listed, as were
some political opponents of the Kabila regime. The Government
subsequently disavowed this list as a personal effort by the President
of the Constitutional Commission that did not reflect the official
recommendations of the Commission. By amendments in May to Decree
Law No. 3 of 1997 the Government established a Constituent and
Legislative Assembly to consider the draft constitution, and adopt
a final version for submittal to the population by referendum.
The Assembly also would establish election laws, and act as a
quasi-parliamentary body during the remainder of the transition
period. In June the Government accepted applications for positions
in the Assembly. Selections were to be made by the President,
but when war broke out in August, it was impossible to form a
constituent assembly with countrywide representation. In September,
President Kabila appointed a 12-member Presidential Commission
of Institutional Reforms to take the place of a Constituent Assembly.
The Commission reviewed the draft constitution and presented its
recommendations to the President in November. However, as of year's
end, the Government had not yet published the draft constitution,
although the Government had send copies to the leaders of various
NGO's and political parties, and purported versions of it had
been printed in some private publications.
The suspension of opposition political party activities, announced
soon after the Government's assumption of power in May 1997, continued;
President Kabila announced in November that he would lift the
suspension in January. Political parties themselves have not been
banned, but their operations are restricted to internal administrative
functions. At various times and for various periods, headquarters
of various political parties were under surveillance, padlocked,
or patrolled by soldiers (see Section 2.b.). The effect of the
party suspensions varies widely throughout the country, but is
less strictly enforced in some provinces.
The Kabila Government's ministers and other senior officials were
drawn from diverse ethnic groups, geographic regions, and political
parties. Those drawn from outside the ADFL are required by opposition
parties to serve as individuals and not as party representatives.
During the 1997 military campaign through the Congolese countryside,
the ADFL held quasi-electoral selections--by acclamation--of provincial
leadership (governor, vice-governor, mayor) in most provinces,
where candidates, some drawn from outside the ADFL, were approved
in public meetings of the local population.
The State continued to be highly centralized in many ways. Governors
were generally appointed by the central Government executive,
but once in the provinces they had considerable autonomy, due
in part to poor communications and transportation infrastructure.
During the year, presidential appointees gradually replaced governors
popularly elected during Kabila's overthrow of Mobutu in 1997.
Territorial administrators are also appointed from Kinshasa. Provincial
government resources, both financial and logistical, have come
almost exclusively from Kinshasa since Kabila took control of
There are no official restrictions on the participation of women
or minorities in politics. However, in practice there are few
women or Muslims in senior positions in the Government or in political
parties. There were six female ministers and vice ministers in
the Cabinet at year's end.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Kabila Government showed increased hostility to effective
human rights organizations, local or international, operating
in the country. Local human rights NGO's continued to investigate
and publish their findings on human rights cases, but these activities
took place in the context of significant government harassment.
Local human rights activists were subjected to frequent harassment,
arrest and detention by security forces (see Section 1.d.). The
legality of such arrests was often unclear, as was the authority
of the security forces members effecting the arrests and detentions.
In March authorities seized 1,600 copies of the annual report
on human rights of AZADHO, one of the principal human rights organizations
in the country. On April 3, the government banned AZADHO for allegedly
violating the prohibition on political activities. This banning
order was issued while AZADHO vice president Pascal Kambale was
in attendance at the UN Human Rights Commission session in Geneva,
where a resolution critical of the Kabila Government's human rights
performance was under consideration. Later in April the Government
announced that a commission would review the registration of other
human rights NGO's to determine their "good standing"
with the government. These NGO's were given 3 days to update materials
on file at the Justice Ministry. Out of 132 organizations, 22
were subsequently declared to be in good standing. The legal status
of those not approved by the Government was unclear; many continued
to function. After AZADHO was banned, its staff formed a substantially
similar organization called the Association Africaine de Defense
des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), which continued AZADHO's work
with the same staff and operating out of the office of the organization's
vice president. In May security forces briefly detained Pascal
Kambale and an ASADHO colleague (see Section 1.d.).
In May Suliman Baldo, a foreign researcher for Human Rights Watch
on a 3-week visit to the country, was detained for 24 hours by
security forces at the Kinshasa airport, who seized documents
in his possession, and then expelled him from the country.
In June the Government established an official NGO, Solidarity
Among Us (SEN). The stated purpose of the NGO, among others, was
to "coordinate the activities" of local and international
NGO's. At year's end, the exact nature of SEN's responsibilities
and authority remained unclear.
The United Nations Investigative Team appointed by the UN Secretary
General to investigate reports of mass extrajudicial killings
by ADFL forces and Rwandan forces supporting it during the 1996-97
rebellion against Mobutu recommenced its investigation in Mbandaka
in February, following its withdrawal to the capital in December
1997 for security reasons after the team faced local protests.
In March a forensics team that was attempting to investigate a
reported massacre site at the village of Wendji outside Mbandaka
met with protests from villagers, and withdrew to Kinshasa. Also
in March a small investigative team deployed to Goma in North
Kivu province to begin investigations. In April an investigator
on this team was expelled from Goma, and detained at Njili airport
in Kinshasa by members of the security forces, who seized investigation
documents in his possession. On April 20, the U.N. Secretary General
withdrew the Investigative Team from the country, citing a pattern
of obstruction on the part of government authorities. In May the
Investigative Team issued its report, which concluded that ADFL
troops, with the participation of Rwandan forces, deliberately
killed hundreds of unarmed civilian refugees in various incidents
from October 1996 to May 1997 (see Section 1.g.).
Members of RCD forces also reportedly used violence to impede
the work of human rights advocates. On August 6, RCD soldiers
in Lemera reportedly killed Jacques Semurongo, a Protestant Christian
clergyman and member of a Bukavu-based human rights NGO called
Heretiers de la Justice; his killers allegedly told his wife that
he was killed for passing information to foreign human rights
organizations. On August 9, RCD authorities reportedly arrested
and detained another member of the same organization, Jean Paul
Bengehya. Armed RCD personnel reportedly were stationed outside
the office of Heretiers de la Justice starting on August 23, and
two members of the organization reportedly received threats and
fled the RCD-controlled zone in September.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The previous Constitutions forbade discrimination based on ethnicity,
sex, or religious affiliation, but the Government did not enforce
these prohibitions effectively, and acted with extreme official
prejudice against members of the Tutsi ethnic group after the
start of the civil war. Societal discrimination remained an obstacle
to the advancement of certain groups, particularly women, Tutsis,
Muslims, and the indigenous Pygmy (Batwa) people.
Domestic violence against women, including rape, is common, but
there are no known government or NGO statistics on the extent
of this violence. The police rarely intervene in domestic disputes.
Rape is a crime, but the press rarely reported incidents of violence
against women or children. Press reports of rape generally appear
only if rape occurs in conjunction with another crime, rarely
because of the act of rape itself.
Women are relegated to a secondary role in society. They comprise
the majority of primary agricultural laborers, and small-scale
traders and are almost exclusively responsible for child rearing.
In the nontraditional sector, women commonly receive less pay
for comparable work. Only rarely do they occupy positions of authority
or high responsibility. Women also tend to receive less education
than men. Women are required by law to obtain their spouse's permission
before engaging in routine legal transactions, such as selling
or renting real estate, opening a bank account, accepting employment,
or applying for a passport. A 1987 revision of the Family Code
permits a widow to inherit her husband's property, to control
her own property, and to receive a property settlement in the
event of divorce. In practice, sometimes consistent with customary
law, women are denied these rights. Widows commonly are stripped
of all possessions--as well as their dependent children--by the
deceased husband's family. Human rights groups and church organizations
are working to combat this custom, but there is generally no government
intervention or legal recourse. Women also are denied custody
of their children in divorce cases, but they retain the right
to visit them. Polygyny is practiced although it is illegal. Father-child
relationships resulting from polygynous unions are recognized
legally, but only the first wife is recognized legally as a spouse.
Government spending on children's programs is nearly nonexistent.
Primary school education is not compulsory, free, or universal.
In public schools, parents are required formally to pay a small
fee, but parents often are expected informally to pay teachers'
salaries. Dire economic circumstances often hamper parents' ability
to cover these added expenses, meaning that children may not be
able to attend school. Most schools function only in areas where
parents have formed cooperatives.
There are no documented cases in which security forces or others
targeted children for specific abuse, although children suffer
from the same conditions of generalized social disorder and widespread
disregard for human rights that affect society as a whole. These
conditions sometimes render parents unable to meet their children's
basic human needs.
Some children as young as 10 years of age were allowed to enlist
as soldiers in the FAC. The Government has not taken comprehensive
measures to remove all child soldiers from its armed forces. The
number of very young soldiers appears to have declined as military
training programs produced new adult recruits. However, child
soldiers remain a very significant presence. Credible reports
indicated that RCD rebel forces forcibly conscripted boys as young
as 10 years.
Female genital mutilation, which is widely condemned by international
health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological
health, is not widespread, but it is practiced on young girls
among isolated groups in the north. The Government has not addressed
People With Disabilities
The law does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government
services for the disabled. There are some special schools, many
with missionary staff, that use private funds and limited public
support to provide education and vocational training to blind
and physically disabled students.
There is a population of fewer than 10,000 Pygmies (Batwa), who
are believed to have been the country's original human inhabitants.
Societal discrimination against them continued. Although citizens,
most Pygmies continued to live in remote areas and took no part
in the political process.
The last official census was taken in 1984. It is estimated that
the population is now 45 to 50 million, and comprises more than
200 separate ethnic groups. These groups generally are concentrated
regionally and speak distinct primary languages. There is no majority
ethnic group; the four largest ethnic groups are the Mongo, Luba,
Congo and Mangbetu-Azande, who together make up about 45 percent
of the population. Four indigenous languages-Kiswahili, Lingala,
Kikongo and Tshiluba--have official status. French is the language
of government, commerce, and education.
Societal discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is widely practiced
by members of virtually all ethnic groups, and is evident in private
hiring and buying patterns, and in patterns of de facto ethnic
segregation in some cities; however, intermarriage across major
ethnic and regional divides is quite common in large cities. There
were accusations that President Kabila used disproportionate numbers
of Katangans in his Government, but the distribution of ministerial
and senior military positions did not appear to reflect such favoritism.
The Government had representatives from all regions and major
tribal groups before the August rebellion; afterwards, ethnic
Tutsis were largely absent from the government.
Interethnic violence between Tutsis and Hutus in the east of the
country, spilling over from neighboring Rwanda and Burundi, contributed
both to the 1997 rebellion against Mobutu and to the civil war
during the year, during which serious human rights abuses including
mass extrajudicial killings were committed both by and against
members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. The Mobutu government's
failure to prevent Hutu nongovernmental armed groups from operating
out of the country's eastern regions to attack Tutsis both in
the country and in neighboring countries led Congolese Tutsi militias
and the Tutsi-dominated Government of Rwanda to support Kabila's
insurgency in 1996, and their support was instrumental to the
success of that insurgency in 1997. The current civil war was
precipitated by the Kabila Government's attempt to expel from
the country Rwandan military forces on which Congolese Tutsis
and the governments of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda relied for
security against hostile nongovernmental armed groups operating
out the country's eastern regions, including several groups composed
chiefly of Hutu refugees from Rwanda and Burundi.
Birth on national territory reportedly does not necessarily confer
citizenship. The Government continued not to recognize the citizenship
claims of longtime residents whose ancestors immigrated to the
country, including the Banyamulenge Tutsis. According to some
accounts, resentment of their noncitizen status contributed to
the participation of many Tutsi residents of the country first
in Kabila's rebellion against Mobutu and then in the RCD rebellion
After the start of the civil war in August, ethnic Tutsis were
subjected to serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings,
both in the capital and elsewere, by government security forces
and by some citizens for perceived or potential disloyalty to
the regime (see section 1.a.). In Kinshasa and Katanga Province,
Tutsis also were held in prolonged detention(see section 1.d.).
After the start of the civil war, ethnic Tutsis were largely absent
from government. There were reports, several of them credible,
that Tutsi-dominated rebel forces repeatedly committed extrajudicial
mass killings of non-Tutsi civilians, sometimes including Hutus,
in reprisal for extrajudicial mass killings of Tutsi civilians
or local guerilla attacks on rebel units (see Section 1.a.)
During the civil war, Congolese Hutu militias increased their recruitment from populations of Hutu refugees from Rwanda and Burundi in neighboring countries, including the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Zambia. Large armed groups of Hutus crossed into the country from the Republic of Congo; according to credible reports, these recruitments and movements occurred with the knowledge and consent of the Government, which welcomed the support of these Hutu groups in its fight against the
Tutsi-dominated RCD rebels.
Senior government officials reportedly represented the civil war as part of a larger supranational conflict between Bantus and Nilotics; the Tutsis speak a language that is part of the Nilotic language group, whereas most inhabitants of the country and of neighboring countries are members of ethnic groups whose languages are part of the Bantu language group. Similar
Niltoic-Bantu rhetoric also appeared in private publications and
broadcasts in the country.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Legislation in effect from the Mobutu period permits all workers
except magistrates and military personnel to form and join trade
Before 1990 the law required all trade unions to affiliate with
the National Union of Zairian Workers (UNTZA), the sole recognized
labor confederation and which also formed part of Mobutu's Popular
Movement of the Revolution (MPR) party. When political pluralism
was permitted in April 1990, the UNTZA disaffiliated itself from
the MPR and reorganized under new leadership chosen through elections
deemed fair by outside observers. After the ADFL takeover, the
union renamed itself the National Union of Congolese Workers (UNTC).
Although the UNTC remains the largest labor federation, almost
100 other independent unions are now registered with the Labor
Ministry and two other large federations are active. Some affiliated
with political parties or associated with a single industry or
The law recognizes the right to strike. However, legal strikes
rarely occur since the law requires prior resort to lengthy mandatory
arbitration and appeal procedures. Labor unions have not been
able to defend effectively the rights of workers in the deteriorating
economic environment. The law prohibits employers or the Government
from retaliating against strikers, but this prohibition rarely
Unions may affiliate with international bodies. The UNTC participates
in the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, and the Central
Union of Congo is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law provides for the right to bargain collectively, and an
agreement between the UNTC and the Employers' Association formerly
provided for wages and prices to be jointly negotiated each year
under minimal government supervision. This system, which functioned
until 1991, broke down as a result of the rapid depreciation of
the currency. The professional unions and the Congolese Business
Federation signed a cooperative agreement in September 1997. While
collective bargaining still exists in theory, continuing inflation
encouraged a return to pay rates individually arranged between
employers and employees.
The collapse of the formal economy also has resulted in a decline
in the influence of unions, a tendency to ignore existing labor
regulations, and a buyer's market for labor. The Labor Code prohibits
antiunion discrimination, although this regulation was not strongly
enforced strongly by the Ministry of Labor. The law also requires
employers to reinstate workers fired for union activities. In
the public sector, the Government sets wages by decree; public
sector unions act only in an informal advisory capacity.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known
to occur, apart from forcible conscription (see Section 1.f.).
The law does not specifically prohibit forced and bonded labor
by children, but such practices are not known to occur, apart
from the forcible conscription of children (see Sections 1.f.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The legal minimum age for employment is 18 years. Employers legally
may hire minors between the ages of 14 and 18 with the consent
of a parent or guardian, but those under age 16 may work a maximum
of 4 hours per day; those between the ages of 16 and 18 may work
up to 8 hours. The law prohibiting forced or compulsory labor
does not specifically mention children, but there were no reports
of such practices, apart from forced conscription (see Section
6.c.). Employment of children of all ages is common in the informal
sector and in subsistence agriculture, which form the dominant
portions of the economy. Such employment is often the only way
a child or family can obtain money for food. Neither the Ministry
of Labor, which is responsible for enforcement, nor the labor
unions make an effort to enforce child labor laws. Larger enterprises
do not commonly exploit child labor. The availability of education
for children is extremely limited in practice (see Section 5).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Most citizens are engaged in subsistence agriculture or commerce
outside the formal wage sector. The minimum wage, last adjusted
by government decree in 1990, subsequently was rendered irrelevant
by rapid inflation. The average wage does not provide a decent
standard of living for a worker and family. Most workers rely
on the extended family and informal economic activity to survive.
The maximum legal workweek (excluding voluntary overtime) is 48
hours. One 24-hour rest period is required every 7 days.
The Labor Code specifies health and safety standards. The Ministry
of Labor officially is charged with enforcing these standards,
but it does not do so effectively. There are no provisions in
the Labor Code permitting workers to remove themselves from dangerous
work situations without penalty.
[end of document]
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