December 5, 2022

President Felix Tshisekedi’s Eastern DR Congo’s human rights crisis worsens after year of martial law

US President Joe Biden (L) and DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi joke during a group photo at the G20 of World Leaders Summit. POOL/AFP via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden (L) and DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi joke during a group photo at the G20 of World Leaders Summit. POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi declared martial law in Ituri and North Kivu, two eastern DRC provinces, on May 6, 2021. Friday marked one year since the imposition of the effect.

The government asserted that the bold measure was taken to “swiftly end the insecurity which is killing our fellow citizens on a daily basis.”

However, martial law status has continued to be prolonged in the region and is still in effect today, over a year later. Human Rights Watch has raised concerns that martial law has “no end in sight” and that it has actually caused a backsliding of fundamental human rights in the region.

Over the past year, violence has continued to worsen in the region. According to Human Rights Watch’s Kivu Security Tracker project, abductions have more than doubled and destruction of property has tripled over the last year.

“Under martial law orders, military authorities are able to search people’s homes day and night, ban publications and meetings deemed against public order, restrict people’s movements, and arrest anyone for disrupting public order,” says Human Rights Watch.

“The military and police have curtailed freedom of expression, put down peaceful demonstrations with lethal force, and arbitrarily detained and prosecuted activists, journalists, and political opposition members,” the organization reports.

Instead of bringing about a speedy and productive solution to the region’s insecurity, the imposition of martial law in eastern DRC has worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis. Results of the measure have been severely counterproductive.

The conflict-ridden region now faces increased infringements on basic freedoms and rights. Speech, protests, and demonstrations have all been suppressed by the brutal military forces.

The people of DR Congo have faced horrible living conditions and insecurity for years. Yet the prolonged military authorization in eastern DRC has not only failed to counteract these atrocities, but has also further restricted people’s basic rights to expression.

Power has been widely abused as military forces have taken drastic actions to deprive civilians of their basic rights while simultaneously exacerbating the region’s insecurity.

“President Tshisekedi should acknowledge that the military rulers in the two provinces have been using their powers to crack down on peaceful critics and ensure that martial rule in both provinces does not curtail people’s fundamental rights. Congo’s international partners should publicly condemn the ongoing repression in North Kivu and Ituri,” asserts Human Rights Watch.

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