Joseph Kabila knows young people in Congo want him gone

One year ago, on December 15, 2015 in the capital Kinshasa, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila’s security forces kidnapped youth activist Jean-Marie Kalonji, the coordinator of “Quatrième Voie” (the Fourth Way in English) and “Il Est Temps” (The Time is Now). Kalonji was detained for 134 days during which time he was held in a hole and tortured. He did not know whether he would live or die.

Youth leaders inside and outside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) quickly mobilized to call attention to the capture and disappearance of Kalonji. After months of pressure, in the wake of rumors of his death, the government finally produced Kalonji and transferred him from the personal prison of Congo’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR in French) to the general prison of Makala. When he arrived at Makala, he joined fellow youth activists who had been imprisoned for almost a year. They were all eventually released during Spring and Summer of 2016.

Kalonji’s case represents the crux of what is Kabila greatest challenge: courageous, educated, Congolese youth who are willing to put their lives on the line to fundamentally transform the DRC. Jean-Marie Kalonji is only 29 years old, works as a human rights activist and holds a degree in International Law from Université Libre de Kinshasa. He was part of the January 2015 #Telema uprisings that openly challenged the attempt by Kabila to extend his stay in power via a change in the electoral law.

At that time, human rights groups allege that security forces killed 42 people and injured and arrested hundreds. Friends of the Congo visited a number of the injured youth at the hospital of the University of Kinshasa. The youth were riddled with bullets.

One young woman had a bullet wound in her groin and a young man had a bullet penetrate his back and exited through his chest. Despite the fact that they were suffering from serious injuries, these young people were resolute about getting back in the streets, once healed, so they could continue pressuring President Kabila to step down.

Although respect for the constitution is a critical aim of the youth and others in civil society, it is not their entire pursuit. Most Congolese do not know what a constitution is, what is in it and certainly did not read its tenets before voting for it in 2006.

What people know is that there was an agreement for President Kabila to leave on a particular date and he is refusing to relinquish power. The Congolese people have suffered under his regime from negligence, disdain, contempt, corruption and the usual coterie of horrid social ills that leave the DRC at the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Kambale Musavuli