The year of 2010 is turning into quite an eventful one for Africa and not only because it's the first time an African country hosts a Football World Cup. Throughout the year, six francophone countries are expected to hold presidential elections and as many as 17 countries are celebrating 50 years of independence: 14 are former French colonies, two were ruled by the British and one country is a former Belgian colony, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But the celebrations in the DRC in June 30 are taking an uncertain path as the murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya is raising more than a few concerns.
The leader of the human rights organization La Voie des Sans Voix (The Voice of the Voiceless), Chebeya was found dead on June 2 under suspicious circumstances. According to Amnesty International, on June 1, Chebeya had been asked to pay a visit to Congo's Inspector General of Police, General John Numbi. He sent a text message to his wife stating that he was at the police office, waiting to meet the chief. Hours later, he sent another message to say he would make a quick stop at the University before going home, and that was his last message. On the following day, passers-by saw his body in the backseat of his car in a suburb of Kinshasa. Some of his clothes were removed and there were traces of female hair and used condoms found inside the car. His driver had disappeared and there were no signs of visible wounds or bullet holes, although there was blood inside his orifices.
For the past 3 weeks, Chebeya's death served as a catalyst to expose the D.R. of Congo's internal situation. The investigation of his murder is giving more weight to the ongoing denunciation of killings, rapes and other violations of human rights, most of them motivated by the conflict over the country's mineral wealth, which also occurs in other French-speaking African countries.
Chebeya's family wanted to arrange the funeral exactly for June 30th 2010 as a sign of protest, but due to pressure from the government and diplomats, the family later agreed to change [fr] the date for June 26.
A human rights activist since the early 1990's, Chebeya was honoured by international organizations and by display of protests worldwide. In June 8, an open letter signed by more than 50 international organizations was addressed to President Joseph Kabila, urging him and his administration to set forth an independent investigation of Chebeya's murder. The Congolese diaspora in Brussels organized a manifestation in front of the DRC embassy [fr]:
Authors of the blog Friends of Congo published a timeline in June 24 with the latest events surrounding the case and declared:
We are outraged by the loss of Floribert Chebeya, a champion for human rights and justice in the Congo. Indications are that the repressive Kabila regime is increasingly extinguishing the voices of the people as the regime looks to maintain power by any means.
Last year, the organization Human Rights Watch published a video on youtube, very critical about the DRC's situation in the field:
In February of 2010, Amnesty International published an article about persecution, threats and illegal detention of human rights activists in the DRC, which mentioned Floribert Chebeya, who had been a victim of threats, illegal arrest and detention before.
For the Congolese diaspora in Brussels, June 30, 2010 is a day of protest. Since March 2010, groups have been organizing a rally to take place through the city's streets to reach the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo with a massive protest. They are calling it “No Kabila Day” [fr], in a clear message against President Kabila and his administration. The mobilization now counts on the Congolese diaspora in Lausanne (Switzerland) and in London (UK) [fr] for similar events on the same day.
One of the leaders of the mobilization in Brussels states [fr] the goal of the protests in her blog:
Nous voulons protester contre le régime dictatorial, génocidaire, terroriste de Joseph Kabila et organiseront jusqu'à son départ, chaque 30 juin, jour anniversaire de l'Indépendance du Congo, un NO KABILA DAY pour rappeler à l'opinion publique mondiale la dangerosité que représente ce dictateur pour la Population Congolaise mais également pour les Populations d'Afrique Centrale et du Monde. Nous espérons rassembler plus d'un million de personnes à travers le monde.
Blogger Jason Stearns of Congo Siasa posted in June 9:
So has this changed with Chebeya's murder? It's too early to tell, but it does come at a very sensitive time, just weeks before the anniversary celebrations and just before the IMF decision on Congolese debt. Also, it may open up a rift within Kabila's inner circle if John Numbi, the head of the police, is prosecuted for the murder.
In the midst of this web of connected events, and now just a few days before the 30th of June, the twitter user Kambale hopes Chebeya is not quickly forgotten by the Congolese and sends out his message:
Amazing that Congolese have forgotten Floribert Chebeya so quickly and are back watching the World Cup. Freedom is not given, it is taken!