Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa) | Page 4 | Freedom House

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

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Meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, on August 18, the leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) extended indefinitely their 18-month suspension of the SADC Tribunal. Delivering a major blow to hopes for the rule of law in the region, the 15 SADC member states also determined that a successor court, if ever constituted, would have no authority to hear cases brought against national governments by individuals, businesses, or organizations on human rights or any other matter. Instead, only governments would have access to the tribunal, and only for the purpose of resolving intergovernmental disputes over the terms of the SADC treaty.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been mired in severe instability and violent conflict since 1994, with rival militias, foreign governments’ proxy forces, and ordinary civilians clashing against a backdrop of underdeveloped social services, lucrative natural resources, and pervasive lack of government accountability. A small step forward came in 2009, when a peace agreement provided for the absorption of a major rebel group into the Congolese national army. Last month, however, the rebels’ former leader, Bosco Ntaganda, defected from the army along with hundreds of soldiers, launching a fresh rebellion and plunging the eastern DRC back into conflict. Violence between the newly baptized M23 rebel group and government forces has displaced at least 45,000 people since April 27, and there are reports that Ntaganda has returned to his past practice of forcibly recruiting child soldiers.

Freedom House welcomes the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s guilty verdict for Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who recruited and used children as young as nine years old as personal bodyguards and soldiers in 2002 and 2003.  This is the first verdict handed down by the ICC since it was founded ten years ago, demonstrating that the institution does have the power to bring some of the world’s worst human rights offenders to justice.

Vukasin Petrovic
former Senior Director for Program Strategy, Development and Learning

The progress that sub-Saharan Africa has achieved in building democracy over the past generation is coming undone. After two decades of significant gains, the continent has experienced a steady decline in democracy over the last several years.

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Freedom in Sub-Saharan Africa 2007

Freedom House released an analysis of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa showing that the region has experienced notable increases in freedom over the past generation, although more setbacks than gains were seen in 2006.

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