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Human Rights Council holds enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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2019年3月19日

Rights Council
MIDDAY 

19 March 2019

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, based on the report of the High Commissioner on the developments of the human rights situation in the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the context of the December 2018 elections.

Presenting the High Commissioner’s report, Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that the political transition process presented an extraordinary opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to move forward with its obligations to respect civil and political rights, ensure accountability for past and ongoing violations, and take measures to fulfil the economic and social rights for its 80 million citizens.  There was an urgent need to take measures to defuse tensions, promote reconciliation in the region, avoid further bloodshed, and ensure that those responsible were prosecuted.  

Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Congolese citizens had paid a high price to participate in the elections.  The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had demonstrated their right to suffrage.  The electoral process was not a long calm river and it could be undermined if they did not take into account human rights violations documented.  Important steps taken through elections should not obscure remaining challenges, which could threaten the security and stability of institutions. 

Bacre Waly Ndiyae, Team Leader of the International Experts on the situation of human rights in Kasai, shared some preliminary findings from the two field visits that the team had conducted.  Although the situation had stabilized somewhat, the crisis was far from over: militias were still active in the province, forced labour was rife, and the numbers affected by sexual slavery were greater than initially thought, as were the numbers of child soldiers.  The team would continue to focus on the fight against impunity, reconciliation, and particularly on disarmament and demobilization in which all militias should participate.

Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, congratulated the newly democratically elected President, Felix Tshisekedi, who had extended the hand of peace to his rivals to rebuild the country.  In order to highlight the Government’s commitment to human rights, it had lifted the ban on demonstrations in the public sphere, 700 prisoners had been freed, including political dissidents, and Congolese abroad had also been invited to return to the country without fear of reprisals. 

Bishop Abraham Ndjamba Samba, Coordinator of the Synergies of Citizen Election Observation Missions, shared his organization’s vision for a Democratic Republic of the Congo where democratic elections were a reality.  In order to achieve this, three steps were needed, election observation, enhanced citizen participation in elections, and electoral reform measures.  Mr. Ndjamba Samba regretted that the Internet was shut down and so was social media during the election itself.  Protestors who did protest had been detained, increasing the number of political prisoners in the country. 

Sheila B. Keetharuth, Team Member of the International Experts on the situation of human rights in Kasai, said cooperation was important and the process should be led adequately, not to the detriment of the fight against impunity, and genuine opportunities for reinsertion should be offered to the former militias.  The process had to extend to all the militias.  A workshop on reconciliation and transitional justice would be organized to better identify the expectations of the population and other actors concerned, and also to identify together mechanisms to promote this reconciliation in Kasai. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the decree signed by the President to pardon about 700 political prisoners.  The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had experienced years of widespread human rights violations and repression, and the new administration had a responsibility to strengthen the rule of law, and uphold freedom of expression, assembly and association.  Speakers noted with concern what had occurred during and after the electoral process and they urged the Government to prosecute all alleged perpetrators and provide reparations to victims.  Excessive use of force by security forces to repress peaceful demonstrations and restrictions on freedom of expression were concerning.  They voiced concern about the situation of human rights in eastern provinces and Kasai, which were still marked by violence and suffering of the civilian population.  A number of speakers called on the international community to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo in overcoming the remaining obstacles in the promotion of human rights. 

Speaking were European Union, Norway on behalf of Nordic countries, Angola on behalf of the African Group, Spain, Sudan, Mozambique, Belgium, United Nations Children’s Fund, Germany, Czech Republic, Togo, Russian Federation, Netherlands, France, Botswana, Egypt, Switzerland, Ireland, China, Cameroon, Ukraine, Congo, Angola, United Kingdom, Austria, and Australia.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of Preachers (in a joint statement with Franciscans International), Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (in a joint statement with International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights), Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lutheran World Federation, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Service for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme.

The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Mali. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (A/HRC/40/47).  (Advance unedited version: A/HRC/40/47)

Keynote Statements

ANDREW GILMOUR, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that the political transition process presented an extraordinary opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to move forward with its obligations to respect civil and political rights, ensure accountability for past and ongoing violations, and take measures to fulfil the economic and social rights for its 80 million citizens.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed President Tshisekedi’s clear commitment in his inauguration speech to guarantee respect for the human rights of all citizens and to end discrimination.  The President had repeated that pledge when he had unveiled his “emergency programme for the first 100 days” and the recent decrees for the release of all political prisoners was a concrete step in that direction.  Such measures, if fulfilled, would represent an exceptionally positive development towards the opening up of democratic space, which had been increasingly restricted in recent years.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights encouraged the President to extend his pledge to ensure respect for all rights linked to democratic space, including the rights to freedoms of association, expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly.  During the electoral process, restrictions on democratic space had been obvious.  Between 22 November 2018 and 24 January 2019, the Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had documented the killing of at least 36 civilians in election-related violence.  Some 21 victims had been killed by defence and security forces as a result of the disproportionate use of force, including the use of live ammunition, in the context of the population’s right to peaceful protest.  During the same period, at least 656 individuals had been arrested arbitrarily by State agents across the country, mostly in the context of demonstrations. 

Mr. Gilmour had previously stressed the need to urgently lift restrictions on peaceful demonstrations, to put an end to the intimidation of members of the opposition, civil society activists and media professionals, and to take measures to end the impunity that perpetuated the violations and abuses which had prevailed throughout the country.  Since President Tshisekedi had taken office, there had been encouraging signs of an opening of democratic space.  The right to peaceful assembly had generally been respected, although some civil society activists had been arbitrarily arrested while peacefully demonstrating following the elections, including dozens of members of the citizens’ movement Lucha.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights remained deeply concerned about the continuing inter-community violence in the country, which was not restricted to conflict-affected provinces.  The horrific attacks which had taken place in December 2018 in the province of Mai-Ndombe between members of the Batende and the Banunu communities had left hundreds of civilians dead, illustrating the urgent need for the State to extend the rule of law to the whole of the territory of the country. 

There was an urgent need to take measures to defuse tensions and promote reconciliation in the region and avoid further bloodshed, and to ensure that those responsible were prosecuted.   The violent acts committed may constitute crimes against humanity, and perpetrators must be held accountable.  Mr. Gilmour urged the Government to pursue its efforts towards independent and impartial investigations into the crimes committed, in accordance with international standards.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stood ready to support the authorities with those investigations, if requested.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had deployed a technical team to provide advisory services to the Auditorat Militaire to complete its investigatory work concerning allegations of violations and abuses committed in the Kasai provinces.  The technical team included five forensic experts, who were assisting the judicial authorities with the exhumation of the mass graves.  In conclusion, Mr.  Gilmour reiterated that the commitments made by President Tshisekedi were very encouraging.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights looked forward to the implementation of those commitments, and it hoped that the President would lead the country to embark on a genuine policy to effectively promote and protect human rights, including by opening up democratic space and ensuring accountability for past and present human rights violations committed throughout the country.

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noted that a year ago she had stressed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at a crossroad, with a possibility for peaceful transition ahead.  It was true that the uncertainty around the electoral process that had persisted since 2015, the absence of dialogue between political actors, as well as the absence of implementation of the Saint Sylvester Agreement had all led civil society to organize protests, which had been violently repressed.  Citizens had paid a high price to participate in the elections.  The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had demonstrated their right to suffrage.  The electoral process was not a long calm river and it could be undermined if they did not take into account human rights violations documented by the Office of the High Commissioner and the High Commissioner herself.  Important steps taken through elections should not obscure remaining challenges, which could threaten the security and stability of institutions.  Preliminary results were followed with some violence in the provincial capital of Kinshasa and in Kikwit in Kwilu and in Kisangani.  It was a reminder of the fragile situation.  There were atrocities in Yumbi area, in the province of Mai-Ndombe.  Although there was no direct link with elections, it still triggered condemnation. 

The new authorities had identified key guidelines that had to be commended and measures to combat impunity.  Armed groups had decided to lay down their arms and to participate in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  This was the case of Kamuina Nsapuau Kasai and other armed groups and militias.  The release of political prisoners undertaken by the President and the free enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly were welcomed.  Numerous challenges remained.  The long-term presence of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo guaranteed security.  Dozens of armed groups and militias were still active in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika.  People were still displaced.  In 2018, there were 2,533 cases of human rights violations documented by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 1,000 women and girls were victims of sexual violence.  Training and building of capacities of security and defence forces had to be continued.  States were called upon to support the new authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   As Kofi Annan said, “we cannot enjoy security without development, or development without security.  And we cannot have either without human rights”. 

BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Team Leader of the International Experts on the situation of human rights in the Kasai region, shared some preliminary findings from the two field visits that the team had conducted.  He welcomed the spirit of cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Government and the ministerial working group on the situation in the Kasai.  Although the situation had stabilized somewhat, the crisis was far from over: militias were still active in the province, forced labour was rife, and the numbers affected by sexual slavery were greater than initially thought, as were the numbers of child soldiers.  In addition, large numbers of people fleeing Angola were entering the province - including victims and perpetrators of the previous two years of fighting - creating additional pressure on the limited resources available.  Since the election of Felix Tshisekedi, a local man, some factions had disarmed of their own accord, but this could also lead to impunity and an escape from justice.  Bana Mura, L’Ecurie Mbembe and other members of the FARDC and the police were not being adequately investigated for war crimes committed.

However, a window of opportunity had opened to break the cycle of violence, impunity and under-development in Kasai.  Humanitarian actors should be supported to ensure their much needed efforts, and the Kasai people should be supported to rebuild their province.  A workshop was organized in the region to combat injustice and impunity, the conclusions of which included the need to strengthen military justice.  Another workshop would take place on transitional justice, without which all national and international humanitarian, judicial and development efforts may fail.  The team would continue to focus on the fight against impunity, reconciliation, and particularly on disarmament and demobilization in which all militias should participate. 

MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Human Rights Minister for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, congratulated the newly democratically elected President Felix Tshisekedi who had extended the hand of peace to his rivals to rebuild the country.  In order to highlight the commitment to human rights, the Government had lifted the ban on demonstrations in the public sphere, 700 prisoners had been freed, including political dissidents, and Congolese abroad had also been invited to return to the country without fear of reprisals.  Armed groups were beginning to demobilize, this facilitated the social reinsertion of child soldiers, raped women and thousands of homeless orphans.  All perpetrators of the massacres in the Kasai province and in Mai-Ndombe would be severely punished, indeed 36 people had already been convicted regarding the murder of the two United Nations experts in March 2017 in Bunkonde.  Civilians were gradually returning to their villages in Yumbi, illustrating that the rule of law had returned to the province.  The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to suffer attacks by the terrorist group ADF-NALU. 

Ms. Mushobekwa emphasized that States should have the sovereign right to defend their territorial integrity and the safety of their citizens but asked how this would be possible without human rights violations being evoked.  She evoked the complex security situation in France, where terrorist threats compounded with State paralysis by the Gilets Jaunes led to human rights breaches by the authorities.  If France had had a Ministry of Human Rights, a ministry also lacking in many other European countries, Ms. Mushobekwa said she would have empathized with it.  She suggested that the Council hold a free and open debate to find a sustainable solution to this dilemma. 

ABRAHAM NDJAMBA SAMBA, Coordinator of the Synergies of Citizen Election Observation Missions, shared the organization’s vision for a Democratic Republic of the Congo where democratic elections were a reality.  In order to achieve this, three steps were needed, election observation, enhanced citizen participation in elections, and electoral reform measures.  As such, the organization had deployed 20,000 short-term observers for the upcoming 30 December 2019 elections.  The organization wanted to note the danger of the draft law in parliament which was a threat to freedom of association.  This draft law, if passed, could reduce freedoms to civil society as it could prevent civil society groups from having a legal identity. 

The organization had observed violations of people’s rights throughout the electoral process.  Violations reported included 16 per cent of voters being registered without fingerprints, and the failure of electoral authorities to publish the results broken down by polling station.  As regarded the Government itself, Mr. Ndjamba Samba regretted that the Internet was shut down and so was social media during the election itself.  Violations of freedom of expression, including the prevention of protests, were evident.  Protestors who did protest were detained, increasing the number of political prisoners in the country.  Mr.Ndjamba Samba said the missions noticed that during the 30 December 2018 elections, 30 per cent of people at electoral polling stations observed were not allowed to vote, as the stations closed prematurely.  The missions’ observations had been corroborated by other observers and organizations.  The missions called for changes to improve the electoral process so that it accorded with national and international standards.  They considered elections would be held in a better way when politicians who ran for office no longer considered it a matter of life or death.  The results could be improved next elections, so long as State institutions were strengthened in line with the observations made. 

Interactive Dialogue

European Union noted with concern violations that had occurred during electoral process and urged the Government to prosecute all alleged perpetrators and provide reparations to victims.  Measures taken by the President were welcomed as they were important for combatting corruption and ensuring good governance.  Norway, speaking on behalf of Nordic countries, commended the Congolese people, who despite hurdles had used their right to vote, as well as the important work by civil society observers.  The report on violence in Yumbi territory was deeply concerning and the events, constituting potential crimes against humanity, had to be investigated.  Angola, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the successful elections, despite many problems.  The Government was encouraged to continue its efforts to put an end to the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and to ensure that victims were offered reparations.

Spain regretted the excessive use of force by security forces to repress peaceful demonstrations and restrictions on freedom of expression.  The massacre against civilians in Yumbi had to be investigated and the Government was called on to ensure that the next elections were transparent and fair.  Sudan applauded the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s efforts in the promotion of human rights through organizing democratic efforts.  The international community was called on to support the country in overcoming remaining obstacles in the promotion of human rights.  Mozambique said that while taking note of disturbing events, including gender-based violence, especially in Kasai region, the people and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo should be commended for the manner in which the elections were held.  The country had opened a new chapter in its history and it required support from the international community. 

Belgium was concerned about the high number of human rights violations and the restrictions on civil society.  It was concerned about the mass killings in Yumbi, and urged the Government to take all the necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure that victims received justice and assistance.  United Nations’ Children’s Fund highlighted the issue of children’s access to justice, as there was a lack of infrastructure and capacity and many children were being judged through adult courts.   It would continue to support efforts to align the justice system with the rights of the child.  Germany was disturbed by the violence of the events in Yumbi on 16 and 17 December 2018 as they showed premeditation and therefore could amount to crimes against humanity.  Germany urged the Congolese authorities and the international community to carry out an independent and impartial investigation to bring those responsible to justice. 

Czech Republic was concerned about the violence perpetrated during and after the election period.  The violations and abuses were due to the disproportionate use of force to disperse demonstrations, and curb freedom of the media, assembly and expression.  It asked if any concrete improvements in the human rights situation had been observed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the change of government.  Togo welcomed the commitment of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to human rights and for the successful democratic elections.  Russian Federation said that considering the situation, the elections were not particularly characterized by serious breaches of order.  It suggested the creation of a National Unity Government to avoid polarization. 

Netherlands was concerned that the Congolese elections had been characterized by an excessive use of force by State actors, and media blackouts in the wake of the vote, amongst other violations.  As the electoral process was yet to be concluded, the Netherlands urged the Congolese authorities to ensure that local and senatorial elections would be free, transparent and credible.  France welcomed the early efforts made by President Tshisekedi, in particular the release of political prisoners and the efforts to tackle impunity.  They had taken note with concern the reports of violations of the electoral practice, and urged the Congolese authorities to investigate the allegations.  Botswana said the Southern African Development Community had worked with the Congolese authorities to ensure the local elections due would be held in a more conducive environment.  Given the history of the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo, it was not surprising that violence had occurred, although it did not absolve the perpetrators.  Botswana called on the authorities to investigate alleged violations. 

Egypt welcomed the success of the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and noted with satisfaction the widespread participation of parties and voters.  They reiterated the importance of coordinating the efforts of the international community in assisting the country to fulfil its international commitments.  Switzerland regretted the human rights violations and violations of the electoral law that marred the 30 December 2018 elections.  Regarding the terrible events of Yumbi, Switzerland called on the Congolese authorities to ensure reconciliation between the two communities, and that the perpetrators of the crimes were punished.

Ireland noted that reports of the use of excessive force by defence forces and security services were deeply concerning and the Government was urged to carry out independent investigations.  What kind of support could the international community provide in investigating abuses committed in the context of the electoral process? China expressed its satisfaction with the election of a new President and congratulated the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo.  China had been investing efforts to improve the human rights situation, including through recent emergency assistance in resettling refugees.  Cameroon appreciated the Congolese people in their demonstrated determination to consolidate democracy and the rule of law.  Bilateral and multilateral partners of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were called upon to prioritize options to maintain external cooperation.

Ukraine joined other delegations in the call for more international attention to be paid to the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo, which had opened a new page of history with the first free elections.  The Congolese society deserved a better human rights environment to overcome remaining constraints to exercising public freedoms.  Republic of Congo welcomed the organization of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and democratic change.  The Republic of Congo, as a neighbouring country, welcomed the cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with African mechanisms and human rights protection mechanisms.  The Office of the High Commissioner was called upon to provide technical assistance and capacity building. 

Angola welcomed the general elections and was convinced that the new Government would scale up its efforts on the human rights situation by including all national elements in the reconstruction to guarantee stability.  United Kingdom urged the Government to ensure that the police, armed forces and State security agents operated according to international standards.  The United Kingdom asked what steps could be taken by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to open up public space, recognize people’s right to peaceful assembly, and support freedom of expression.  Austria called on the Government to lead independent, credible and impartial inquiries into all human rights violations committed during the election.  It asked what the international community could do to support the authorities and ensure that the perpetrators of human rights violations were brought to justice.

Australia was concerned about the media restrictions and shut down, stating that democracy relied on the open exchange of views, and called on the Government to safeguard freedoms of expression and assembly.  It asked what actions were being taken by political leaders to enhance accountability and respect for human rights among security forces.

Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of Preachers, in a joint statement with Franciscans International, stated it was the responsibility of the new Government to protect fundamental freedoms, including the training of security services on human rights, and ensuring the protection of civilians.  The country was rich in natural resources, and so a meaningful participation of local communities to benefit from the exploitation of natural resources was needed.  Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, in a joint statement with International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, said the recent elections were simply a mask, with no meaningful transfer of power.  Joseph Kabila and his associates must answer for their crimes, and victims of political crimes should be released immediately.  Lutheran World Federation noted that whilst some progress had been made with some armed groups giving up their weapons, there had been no demobilization of armed groups, or reintegration of children on any meaningful scale.  They called for all groups to pursue nonviolent methods for pursuing the resolution of disputes. 

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues regretted the almost total impunity in the State, and called on the Council to do its best to ensure that a truth and reconciliation commission was set up in the country.  They were concerned about violence in the Yumbi region, and urged the Council to investigate these events and ensure justice and reparations was handed down to victims.  International Service for Human Rights was concerned about the shrinking of civic space and the suppression of demonstrations in several regions of the country.  They remained concerned about a number of legislative bills being discussed, and called on the Council to continue to monitor the situation in the country and help put an end to the violence that the population was facing.  World Organisation Against Torture regretted the number of people killed in clashes between demonstrators and police during the election process.  They deplored the impunity that existed under the former regime, and called on the new government to dismantle the national intelligence services that violated human rights under the former president. 

CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcomed the decree signed by the newly elected Congolese President to pardon about 700 political prisoners.  The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had experienced years of widespread human rights violations and repression, and the new administration had a responsibility to strengthen the rule of law, and uphold freedom of expression, assembly and association.  Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme congratulated the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on their political maturity and acceptance of the result of the recent presidential elections.  However, the organization remained concerned about the situation of human rights in eastern provinces and Kasai, which were still marked by violence and suffering of civilian population.

Concluding Remarks

ANDREW GILMOUR, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that it was still too early to talk about progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but there were encouraging signs, such as the closure of some detention centres and the fact that some armed groups had shown interest in laying down their weapons and in joining the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.  The Government could do more by opening up democratic space and by promoting wider participation in political life, especially for women.  All communities should be given the right to vote, including those living abroad.  Access to the Internet should be open in future elections, Mr.  Gilmour stressed.  As for the civic space, actions had already been taken and the key was now to ensure that those actions were sustainable.  The international community should encourage the Government to continue its current course, and to point out abuses when they occurred.

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that on questions raised on concrete measures, the answer was already provided.  The elections had been extremely tense with a lot of uncertainty, human rights violations had been committed, and it was uncertain if they would go on.  The Congolese had reacted peacefully and they were now waiting to see what the new authorities would do.  There were huge challenges associated with impunity, as it was a long process.  Speakers had asked how could the international community work to strengthen the new process?  Usually, a Congolese President would either flee or would be killed, but now Kabila was in the country and he was not President anymore.  So Kabila needed to be kept out of the process, the institutions needed to be strengthened, and support needed to be offered to the new President.  The release of political prisoners took a long time to become a reality.  In Lubumbashi, there were demonstrations turned violent and a Commission of Inquiry was sent by the President.  That did not usually happen.  Postponing the Senator elections were the cause of huge tensions because the parties were against this.  There was a need to integrate the hundreds of armed groups that were laying down their arms. 

SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Team Member of the International Experts on the situation of human rights in Kasai, said there was a lot of encouragement by States for their work.  Their mandate was to follow up and report on the implementation of recommendations of the first team. There was a glimmer of hope during the last field visit in Kasai.  This glimmer of hope should expand.  That was the first expectation.  Cooperation was important and the process should be led adequately, not to the detriment of the fight against impunity, and genuine opportunities for reinsertion should be offered to the former militias.  The process had to extend to all of militias.  They had also been asked to prepare recommendations on fighting impunity and promoting reconciliation.  During the workshop in February on impunity, competent military justice was encountered, however, there was a lack of means, so they recommended that the Congolese authorities support military justice, but also considered that they might feminize the military judges to strengthen sensitivity towards women who were victims of sexual crimes and other crimes, particularly in the Kasai.  This would be further explored in other reports.  A workshop on reconciliation and transitional justice would be organized to better identify the expectations of the population and other actors concerned, and also to identify together mechanisms to promote this reconciliation in Kasai. 

BACRE WALY NDIYAE, Team Leader of the International Experts on the situation of human rights in Kasai, noted those who came out to lay down their weapons.  Their role as the international community was to ensure that this opportunity did not close down again, but that had to do this while respecting the rights of the victims to immediate assistance, both humanitarian assistance, but also trying not to promote amnesty laws and not to integrate into the army those who had blood on their hands.  Cultural practices had to be taken into account, otherwise, reconciliation in Kasai would be on everyone’s lips but not in their hearts and minds. 

MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of Congo, welcomed the comments of participants, and reiterated the significance of her country’s recent elections.  She stated that in the past, either the President was killed, or he was chased out.  President Kabila had run for two terms and then organized democratic elections, without foreign any interference.  Ms. Mushobekwa was aware that in some European capitals, potential candidates were chosen to run in her country’s elections, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo had rejected this.  Instead the Congolese people elected a new President Tshisekedi, and Mr.  Kabila handed over power peacefully.  Whilst the situation was not perfect, nonetheless, the peaceful transition of power in the country would be remembered forever, and the Democratic Republic of Congo must be applauded for this.  Having travelled widely throughout the country during the elections, she could see the elections were not perfect, and accepted there had been some irregularities.  However, the authorities had quickly taken steps to correct these. 

BISHOP ABRAHAM NDJAMBA SAMBA, Coordinator of the Synergies of Citizen Election Observation Missions, stressed the need to strengthen capacities regarding respect for human rights, in order to encourage the Government to move forward with specific steps to ensure respect for human rights.  Governance was not in speeches and laws, but was in concrete steps, and the Government had to concretize the promises that it had made.  Transparency during the elections was important, including access to information during the electoral process, as the Electoral Commission had only provided information when it wanted to.  The final report of the observation missions on the elections was being drafted now and would be available in mid-April.  It would include recommendations on the reform of the electoral law, the voting system and the ballots, and would propose a workshop on how to improve the electoral process in the future. 

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