Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Free FILIMBI Youth

Congolese youth have been mobilizing and taking action throughout the democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They seek fundamental, peaceful, non-violent change, not merely a political alternative. When it became clear to them that President Joseph Kabila was seeking to remain in power by any means necessary, they stepped up their efforts to educate and mobilize the Congolese population to become more engaged in advocating for change throughout the country.

The youth established a broad network of student and youth organizations under the banner of FILIMBI. The FILIMBI network has taken a number of actions via "Nous Sommes Congo,"We are Congo." The most consequential action was FILIMBI's participation in the January 19 - 22 demonstrations against the change in the electoral law. These demonstrations were dubbed the #Telema uprisings.

The demonstrations resulted in at least 42 people dead, most at the hands of the Kabila regime's security forces, 15 of the 42 dead came directly from the FILIMBI network. Many suffered bullet wounds and were hospitalized as a result and hundreds were arrested, estimates run as high as 400. In spite of the repressive actions by the government, the youth and those who went into the streets prevailed and the government's attempt to legalize Joseph Kabila's stay in power beyond his constitutional mandate failed.

The latest repressive action against the youth occurred on March 15th. The youth in the FILIMBI network invited their counterparts from Senegal and Burkina Faso to share experiences and strategies regarding civic engagement. The Congolese government unleashed its security forces on a press conference organized by the youth arresting everyone it could; journalists, musicians, the youth from Burkina Faso and Senegal and Congolese youth who are a part of the FILIMBI network.

The foreign journalists were released the same day and the youth from Burkina Faso were released several days later, declared persona non-grata and sent back to their countries. However, the Congolese youth are still in the hands of Congo's security forces and have not been afforded due process. In fact, the government spokesperson have painted them as terrorists seeking to mount an armed insurrection.

At least five individuals (Sylvain Saluseke, Fred Bauma, Yves Makwambala, Deddy Kishimbi, DieuMerci) are in the hands of Congo's security forces. Friends of the Congo has launched the "Free FILIMBI Youth" campaign. The purpose of the Campaign is to free the FILIMBI youth along with hundreds arrested from the January 19 - 22nd demonstrations as well as all political prisoners among them, the likes of Jean Bertrand Ewanga, Diomi Ndongala, Jean-Claude Muyambo, Vano Kiboko, Christopher Ngoy, Mike Mukebay and many others.

Join the campaign:
Click here to access the Telema action page where you can sign petitions, make calls, send emails, tweet, donate, sign-up for updates or volunteer

Monday, February 16, 2015

The March For Democracy

On February 16, 1992, Congolese Christians responded to a call by the Catholic Church to protest peacefully and demand the reopening of the Sovereign National Conference (Conference National Souveraine - CNS in French). The conference was a democratic forum composed of delegates who represented all layers of the society in the Congo (Zaire at the time) from members of civil society, political parties, the military, the diaspora, as well as the president himself (Mobutu Se Seko). This conference was tasked with interrogating the country’s history and finding a way to deal with the multidimensional national crisis (political, economic, social, cultural, and moral) that the country was facing in 1990.

On January 19, 1992, then-Mobutu-appointed prime minister Nguza Karl-I-Bond announced the suspension of the Sovereign National Conference on radio and television. This decision to suspend the CNS angered many Congolese who had high hopes that this democratic process would help the country extricate itself from dictatorial rule. The Catholic Church, which at the time distanced itself from Mobutu's regime and became more vocal about Mobutu's human rights abuse, made a call to all Christians and civil society groups for a massive demonstration to reopen the Sovereign National Conference. Thousands of marchers from all backgrounds converged on the Tata Raphaël stadium. Police and soldiers opened fire on the marchers before they could reach their destination, killing more than forty people. This incident, which caused international outcry as news began to enter the western world, forced the government to reinstate the CNS in April 1991 and served as a pivotal point in Congo's struggle toward democratization.

In his book "The History of the Congo," Dr Didier Gondola revisits this important date and give us the reason why Christians in the Congo took to the streets. He says: "In early 1992, Mobutu decided to disband the Sovereign National Conference (Conference Nationale Souveraine - CNS), an assembly whose main task was to create a new constitution and organize democratic elections. In response to this decision, strong opposition mounted among Kinshasa's independent churches. On February 16, 1992, thousands of church members took their grievances to the streets of the capital in what was dubbed by its organizers as the "March of Hope" (Marche de l'Espoir). Marchers held banners demanding the reopening of the CNS, and they chanted songs against violence and dictatorship. The peaceful march ended in a bloodbath when the army intervened and gunned down dozens of demonstrators. The March of Hope has since been held up as a major turning point in the relations between the church and state. It was also an event that precipitated the end of Mobutu's regime."

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Martyrs Day: Are Congolese Women Paying the Price?

January 4th is a historic day in Congo’s history, which serves as a national holiday. On January 4, 1959, ordinary Congolese stood in defiance of Belgian colonialism demanding independence. Congolese in Kinshasa unleashed a spontaneous uprising out of frustration with the repressive Belgian colonial regime. In his seminal work "Congo: From Leopold to Kabila," Dr Georges Nzongola Ntalaja said the march on January 4, 1959 "sounded the death knell of Belgian Colonialism in the Congo." The unifying chant of the marchers was "Indépendance Immediate" or "Independence Now" in English. The uprising represented the radicalization of the struggle for independence. It frightened not only the Belgian authorities but also the Congolese elites know as évolués.

Nine days later on January 13, 1959 both the King of Belgium and the Belgium government announced that in due time Belgium would grant Congo full independence. In the conscience of the nation, the day represents the historic point of departure for the independence of the Congo from Belgian colonialism.

The courageous stance by that generation of Congolese served as a key catalyst for Congo’s independence in 1960. Since the 1960s Congolese have celebrated and commemorated that generation’s actions and named the day “la journée des martyrs de l’indépendance,” or in English, independence Martyrs Day. Without a doubt, Congolese of that era made enormous sacrifices for freedom and independence.

This year's Martyrs Day begs for Congolese youth of courage to overcome their fears and draw on the inspiration of past generations and stand in defense of their institutions. The Congolese constitution and the nascent democratic process are are currently under attack by those in power seeking to reign over the people in perpetuity.

An increasing number of Congolese are standing up to say no to the current government and their attempts to remain in power at any cost. Probably most notably is Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital who has called on the Kabila regime to respect the constitution and depart at the end of his mandate in 2016. It appears that he is paying a political price for his principled stand in support of the interests of the Congolese people. It is hard to see the freezing of the Panzi Hospital bank account outside of a political context where the current regime is in the process of persecuting notable figures who call for the respect of the country's institutions, mainly its constitution.In the case of the attack on the Panzi Hospital, ultimately, it is the Congolese women who have been victims of rape and various forms of sexual terrorism who will pay the highest price for what appears to be a political attack.

Courageous Congolese continue to make enormous sacrifices for a better future for the sons and daughters of the Congo? The global community should stand in support and solidarity with the people of the Congo as they pursue peace, justice and human dignity.

Join the global movement in support of a peaceful and just Congo!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kabila, Burkina Faso, National Cohesion and Prospects for Change in Congo

As 2014 comes to a close, the dominant challenge facing Congolese people is the lengths to which President Joseph  Kabila will go to maintain a stranglehold on power. This unresolved question represents the greatest threat to peace and stability in the democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It will continue to dominate the political landscape through 2016, when Kabila is constitutionally mandated to leave office. He will have completed the second of his two five-year terms (2006 – 2011 and 2011 – 2016) in December 2016.

Leaders in Kabila's Presidential Majority coalition have called for the constitution to be modified so that he can run for a third term. Even before its ratification in 2006, the Congolese constitution has been perverted to suit Kabila's personal interest. For example the minimum age required to run for President was lowered from 35 to 30 so that Kabila who was then 34 years old could qualify to run for President in the 2006 elections. In 2011, Kabila modified the constitution to facilitate the appropriation of the November 2011 elections.

This time, the Congolese populace led by the Catholic Church and 600 plus civil society organizations have said enough is enough. They have called on President Kabila not to touch the constitution, to organize elections at all levels (local, provincial and national) and to step down after the completion of his second term in 2016.

While Kabila's Presidential Majority coalition has been vocal about his remaining in power, Kabila has remained silent on whether he will stay or leave. Nonetheless, his actions have strongly indicated that he plans to stay by any means necessary. Options at his disposal include: changing the constitution, outright scrapping the constitution and initiating a new one; and delaying the 2016 Presidential elections through various measures. Kabila has reorganized the military to strengthen his hand and reshuffled the government under the misnomer “coalition government” in order to bring more political opportunists into the fold.

Kabila’s 2014 "message to the nation" on Monday, December 15th helped to further cement his intention to remain in power beyond 2016. During his speech, he warned against foreign "injunctions" as if calls from European nations and the United States for him to step down after 2016 represent the greatest demand on him to respect the country's constitution. In fact, the strongest resistance to Kabila remaining in power comes from Congolese inside the country.

Kabila also proclaimed during his speech that peace and stability has prevailed throughout the country, however, this is far from the case. The people of Beni in the North Kivu province have endured tremendous suffering, especially over the past two months. Over 250 people have been senselessly massacred. President Kabila paid a "too late, too little" visit to Beni in late October, ostensibly to demonstrate some level of concern for the inhabitants. Following his visit, angry youth disfigured and tore down a statue of Kabila to express their outrage and dissatisfaction with his lack of leadership and the inability of the state to protect the people. While in the Katanga province, over a half million people have been displaced due to militia activity.  Peace and stability remains fleeting under Joseph Kabila’s leadership.

A critical mass of Congolese youth and others have had enough. The question is often asked and widely debated as to whether the mass mobilization that took place in Burkina Faso that resulted in the ousting of President Blaise Compaoré can happen in the Congo or will influence the Congolese populace? Of course it has influenced Congolese youth and the Congolese government as well. Whether what transpired in Burkina Faso can actually happen in the DRC is yet to be seen. The hope is that people will not have to descend into the streets to make President Kabila respect the laws of the land. The expectation is that the pressure being applied by the Catholic Church, Civil society, youth throughout the country, noted Congolese figures such as Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital, politicians in the presidential majority, the opposition and others in the global community, will be sufficient to facilitate respect for the country's constitution and a peaceful transition to a new leadership in 2016.

Congolese youth and others are very clear about what is at stake. The moves made by the Kabila regime are based primarily on how he and his coterie of elites can remain in power and continue to benefit from their positions in the government at the expense of the people.

The next couple years will be a critical test for the Congolese people and those who have invested in peace and stability in the country. The central challenge remains the same since the modern founding of the DRC, will masses of Congolese be able to finally control and determine the affairs of the Congo so that they can be the primary beneficiaries of the country's spectacular wealth.

A vital pillar to peace and stability in the Congo is a government and leadership that benefits from the popular will of the people. The Congolese people are in dire need of a government that serves and protects the interests of the masses.  A social and political landscape where the people have a say in the decision-making process is paramount to peace and stability. It is only when the sons and the daughters of the Congo organize and mobilize to create such an environment that we will finally know and experience peace and be able to extricate ourselves from crushing poverty and perpetual dependency.

Kambale Musavuli
Spokesperson
Friends of the Congo

Monday, December 08, 2014

New Congolese Government

President Joseph Kabila named a new government on Sunday, December 7th. Since national consultations in October 2013, many observers have been awaiting the naming of a so-called government of cohesion, which would include members of the opposition. Seven members from the opposition were included in the new cabinet, which will be led Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, who also led the previous government.

Over a year later, Kabila issued the names of the representatives of the new government. The number of members of the government increased by 11 from 37 in the former government to 48 in the new government. The new government led by Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo is made up of three vice prime ministers, two ministers of state, 32 ministries and ten vice ministries

The new government is a far cry from a unity government or government of cohesion. The presidential majority has merely strengthened its hand in advance of the end of the presidential mandate of Joseph Kabila, which is supposed to come to an end in December 2016 when he will have completed the second of two five-year terms. Many signals have come from Kabila's camp that he aims to stay in power beyond 2016 by any means necessary. Decisions made over the next couple years by Kabila and his supporters is best viewed through the lens of methods or means he can leverage to remain in power beyond 2016.

Although the new government is dubbed as a government of cohesion or national unity, it is far from such. Major parties in the opposition such as UDPS (apparently a card carrying member of UDPS has joined the government but is not at all endorsed by the party) of Etienne Tshisekedi is not a part of the new government and neither are any members of Vital Kamerhe's UNC. Three members of Jean Pierre Bemba's MLC joined the new government, however, they were immediately dismissed from the party for not adhering to the policies of the party. The new government is without doubt dominated by the Presidential Majority and overtures to the opposition are symbolic at best. One cannot call the new government a cohesion government or a government of national unity.  Furthermore, the major thrust of the democratic forces in the country is around the departure of Kabila in 2016 and a peaceful transition via elections, the dominant concern is not being a part of a government that lacks legitimacy among the majority of the Congolese public.

Major ministries such as defense, finance, economy, mines are all under the full control of Joseph Kabila.

Premier Ministre:
Augustin Matata Ponyo

Article 1
Vice Prime Ministers:

1. Vice-premier et ministre de l’Intérieur et Sécurité : M. Evariste Boshab
2. Vice-premier et ministre des PT&NTIC : M. Thomas Luhaka Losendjola
3. Vice-premier et ministre de l’Emploi, Travail et Prévoyance Sociale : M. Willy Makiashi

Article 2 :
Ministres d’Etat et ministres en fonction:

4. Ministre d’Etat et ministre du Budget : M. Michel Bongongo
5. Ministre d’Etat et ministre de la Décentralisation et Affaire Coutumière : M. Simon Banamuhere

Article 3 :
Ministres en fonction:

6. Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et Coopération Internationale : M. Raymond Tshibanda
7. Ministre de la Défense, Anciens combattants et Réinsertion : M. Aimé Ngoy Mukena
8. Ministre de la Justice, Garde Sceau et Droits Humains : M. Alexis Thambwe Mwamba
9. Ministre du Portefeuille : Mme Louise Munga
10. Ministre de Relation avec le Parlement : M. Tryphon Kin-kiey Mulumba
11. Ministre de la Communication et Médias : M. Lambert Mende
12. Ministre de l’EPSP et Initiation à la Nouvelle Citoyenneté : M. Maker Mwangu Famba
13. Ministre du Plan et Révolution de la Modernité : M. Olivier Kamitatu
14. Ministre de la Fonction Publique : M. Jean-Claude Kibala
15. Ministre des Infrastructures : M. Fridolin Kasweshi
16. Ministre des Finances : Henri Yav Muland
17. Ministre de l’Economie Nationale : M. Modeste Bahati Lukwebo
8. Ministre de l’Environnement et Développement Durable : M. Bienvenu Lihota Ndjoli
19. Ministre du Commerce : Mme Ngudianga Bayokisa
20. Ministre de l’Industrie : M. Germain Kambinga
21. Ministre de l’Agriculture, Pêche et Elevage : M. Kabwe Mwewu
22. Ministre des Affaires Foncières : M. Bolengetenge Balela
23. Ministre des Mines: M. Martin Kabwelulu
24 : Ministre des Hydrocarbures : M. Crispin Atama Tabe
25. Ministre de l’Energie et Ressources Hydrauliques : M. Jeannot Matadi Nenga Gamanda
26. Ministre de la Culture et des Arts : M. Banza Mukalay
27. Ministre du Tourisme : M. Elvis Muntiri wa Bashala
28. Ministre de la Santé Publique : M. Félix Kabange Numbi
29. Ministre de l’ESU : M. Théophile Mbemba Fundu
30. Ministre de l’Enseignement Technique et Professionnel : M. Jean Nengbangba
31. Ministre de l’Aménagement du Territoire, Urbanisme et habitat : M. Omer Egwake
32. Ministre des Transports et Voies de Communication : M. Justin Kalumba
33. Ministre de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique : M. Daniel Madimba Kalonji
34. Ministre du Genre, Famille et Enfant : Mme Bijoux Kat
35. Ministre des PME et Classe Moyenne : M. Bohongo Nkoy
36. Ministre du Développement Rural : M. Eugène Serufuli
37. Ministre de la Jeunesse, Sports et Loisirs : M. Sama Lukonde Kienge

Article 4 :
Vice-ministres en fonction:

38. Vice-ministre de l’Intérieur : Mme Martine Bukasa Ntumba
39. Vice-ministre de la Défense nationale : M. René Nsibu
40. Vice-ministre de la Justice et Droits Humains : M. Mboso Nkodia Mpuanga
41. Vice-ministre du Budget : Mme Ernestine Nyoka
42. Vice-ministre de la Coopération Internationale et Intégration Régionale : M. Franck Mwendi Malila
43. Vice-ministre des Congolais de l’Etranger : M. Antoine Boyamba
44. Vice-ministre de l’Energie : Mme Maguy Rwakabuba
45. Vice-ministre des Finances : M. Albert Mpeti
46. Vice-ministre du Plan : Mme Lisette Bisangana Ngalamulume
47. Vice-ministre des Postes et Télécommunications : M. Enoch Sebineza





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Breaking The Silence: Congo Week, October 19 - 25, 2014

Dear Friend,

The seventh year of Breaking the Silence: Congo Week will take place from October 19 - 25, 2014. It is your commitment to standing in solidarity with the Congolese people that has kept this movement growing each year. Due to your engagement, an increasing number of people throughout the globe is becoming aware of the situation in the Congo and demanding that world leaders do more to help bring an end to the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two.

The United Nations, African Union, the United States and other countries have gotten more involved, however, greater engagement is not a prescription in and of itself for peace. The application of policies grounded in justice for the Congolese people is paramount to bringing about peace and lasting stability in the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Young Congolese inside and outside of the Congo along with their allies in the global community are mobilizing to assure that policies are implemented to advance peace, justice and democracy in the Congo.

We encourage you to join us this October for Congo Week as we commemorate the millions of lives lost in the conflict while celebrating the country's enormous human and natural potential.

This year we are prioritizing three concrete actions:

1. Host an event during Congo Week. We also encourage you to create a team and recruit individuals and organizations (student, women, peace, labor, faith-based, human rights, environmental, etc) to participate in Congo Week.

2. Participate in the Dear John Campaign (A campaign to send a letter/postcard to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that the U.S. support democracy in the Congo while holding its allies in the region accountable for their destabilizing of the DRC)

3. Host a fundraiser or benefit event to raise funds to support Congolese youth who are organizing for peace and justice. Find out more here about how you can support the Congo Connect Youth Initiative.

Seize the moment and become a part of a noble pursuit for peace, justice and human dignity in the heart of Africa, our home, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Samya Lugoma
Congo Week Lead Coordinator

Kambale Musavuli
Spokesperson, Friends of the Congo

  • Stay abreast of Congo Week activities via Twitter by using #CongoWeek2014.
  • Share the Congo Week promotional video with your network.
  • Visit the Breaking the Silence: Congo Week page on Facebook.
  • Support the organizing of Congo Week with a financial contribution.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Congo Swim Kicks Off Today

COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO SWIM, WALK, RUN AND DANCE FOR PEACE AND END TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS IN DR CONGO 

This Father’s Day, Sunday, June 15th marks the official launch of CongoSwim 2014, an opportunity for everyone to bring deeper meaning to any summer activity. Keris Dahlkamp, CongoSwim founder and a Contra Costa father of two, developed the collective action as a platform to break the silence around the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and raise support for Congolese groups working for a peaceful and just future.  It is estimated that at least 6 million people have died from war-related causes, half being children under the age of 5. 

Keris Dahlkamp swims Lake Tahoe
“If it were my wife or child being affected by violence in this way, I would hope that those who could do something, would do something.  Especially since we benefit so much from Congo’s land, I invite everyone to join me because every action matters.”  Dahlkamp said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries on our planet.  Minerals such as coltan, tin and gold are necessary to manufacture our computers, cell phones, cars and more.  Control of the land and these resources has played a key role in fueling the conflict. 

Parents are finding CongoSwim a great way to help their children explore global citizenship and how any regular activity can be a vehicle for helping others.  Upon registering, families receive information with appropriate language to speak with children about injustice.

Children participate in Congo Swim
“I joined because there are people in Congo who are suffering and I am here using an iPad made from valuable minerals that are supposed to benefit them,” shared a nine year old participant.

Last summer, Dahlkamp swam 22 miles across Lake Tahoe where he was joined by Coco Ramanzani, a survivor of war and rape in eastern Congo.  Coco, whose story is told in the book, Tell This to My Mother, is an activist and advocate for all women and children.  Coco says, “It is too painful to imagine that all that has happened to me in Congo is happening to other women and children right now… I hope all of you will join CongoSwim. I invite everyone to invest in a future free of violence, full of human dignity.”  Ramazani will return again to the east bay and speak on August 23 following a walk around Lake Merritt. 

To learn more and register visit www.congoswim.org or call 925.812.2496.

Funds raised will be distributed as grants by Global Fund for Women and Friends of the Congo to women and youth-led groups in Congo.  CongoSwim will be officially launched at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church (LOPC) this Father’s Day, with a call to action from Seven Hills graduating 8th grader Suzanna Creasey who walked 22 miles around the Lafayette Reservoir with her family as CongoSwim participants.  While the beneficiaries are not religiously affiliated and participants are from diverse beliefs and backgrounds, key organizing has come from the LOPC Congo Team.

For interview contact
Keris Dahlkamp                                                              
CongoSwim founder                                                      
www.congoswim.org                                                     
(925) 812-2496      

Kambale Musavuli
Spokesperson
Friends of the Congo 
www.friendsofthecongo.org
(202) 584-6512