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Violence in the DRC: transitional justice must be decolonized – Capcov

How to respond to massive human rights violations in eastern DRC? Transitional justice can be a solution, if it is implemented by the Congolese themselves.

For more than three decades, the DRC has lived at the rate of incessant conflicts and violence that claim thousands of lives and cause multiple physical wounds and mental trauma in all communities of the country, particularly in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, from Ituri and Tanganyika. Responding to these massive human rights violations requires a comprehensive consideration of historical, political, security, economic and social factors that can shed light on the mechanisms that have led to chaos and the devaluation of human life in this country. But the debates remain dominated by activism in favor of the creation of transitional justice mechanisms.

Ethnic militias

By transitional justice, the United Nations means “the full range of the various processes and mechanisms implemented by a society to try to deal with massive abuses committed in the past with a view to establishing responsibilities, rendering justice and to allow reconciliation ”. In the Congolese context, the debates are closely centered on the Mapping Report. Published in August 2010, this report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights listed the “617 most serious incidents” that occurred between March 1993 and June 2003, which could, “if they are duly investigated and proven […], suggest the commission of multiple human rights violations ”. The said incidents covered in particular the violence in Shaba / Katanga and North Kivu from the beginning of 1993, those preceding and accompanying the two Congo wars (1996-1998 / 1998-2001) as well as the difficult transition to a post-rebellion government. (2001-2003).

Among their alleged perpetrators are various Congolese militias often organized on ethnic bases, the regular Congolese armed forces, armed movements, in particular the AFDL, the MLC, and forces from neighboring countries of the DRC, including the Rwandan armies. (APR / RDF), Ugandan (UPDF), Burundian (FAB), Zimbabwean (ZDF) and Angolan (FAA).

In its conclusions, the report recommended “a holistic policy of transitional justice which would be based on the creation of various and complementary mechanisms”, in particular a mixed tribunal for the DRC; a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; repair and institutional reform programs. The mixed jurisdiction should carry out in-depth investigations which could eventually lead to legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the crimes committed in the country.

At the end of a rather reductive media campaign around the Mapping Report and in the face of protests or objections from neighboring countries of the DRC, this work has almost fallen into oblivion. It has resurfaced in recent years thanks to the activism of personalities such as Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Prize 2018, political actors such as Martin Fayulu (Lamuka coalition) as well as members of civil society supported by their international supporters, mostly European.

Conspiracy theories, political report

But this activism raises many questions as it proceeds from a rather selective reading of the report. Thus, when it was published, the media storm aroused by the evocation of “attacks against Hutu refugees”, described as genocidal, was in total contradiction with the almost absolute silence on the violence directed against the Banyamulenge and the Congolese Tutsi. Likewise, the quality of victim or executioner is attributed to both in a fanciful way, according to the principle of selective objectivity.

The most striking example is the paradoxical attitude of personalities like Martin Fayulu who promote the Mapping Report as well as a vague concept of “Congolese genocide” by subscribing to conspiracy theories on the balkanization and the Tutsi-Rwandan occupation of the DRC. while denying any presence of Banyamulenge in the country.

We must not fetishize the Mapping Report and ignore contemporary realities, including the ongoing atrocities

Second, the selective use of the Mapping Report as the basis for a future transitional justice in the DRC artificially narrows the material and temporal limits of debates on criminal accountability for human rights violations in the DRC. Indeed, these lasted beyond the decade 1993-2003 covered in the document, until today. Various sources, including the UN and the Kivu Security Barometer, recently identified more than a hundred armed groups, mainly local, in the eastern provinces, regularly accused of multiple abuses. The regular forces (FARDC) and foreign armed groups also stand out for their abuses against civilian populations.

As a result, a pursuit of transitional justice that fetishizes the Mapping Report while ignoring contemporary realities, including ongoing atrocities, takes on a more political character than a sincere defense of the rights of victims.

Decolonization of justice

Indeed, the activism deployed for the creation of a Tribunal for the DRC betrays a certain desire to outsource responsibility for all crimes committed in the country. As recently declared by a South Kivutian provincial deputy in favor of international justice (isée) – and also champion of the anti-Banyamulenge-Tutsi discourse -, the justice for which he is campaigning would aim at the condemnation of foreign actors (Rwandan, Ugandan, Burundian …) whom he considers solely responsible for the violations committed in the DRC. This argument betrays an erroneous reading of the Mapping Report and especially the absence of an introspective look at the Congolese responsibilities in the conflicts, violence and other evils which plague the country.

Investing in the capacity of Congolese courts for both past and present violations would be beneficial as Africa

Finally – and this is where the decolonial argument lies – the current activism, which reduces transitional justice in the DRC to an international or mixed court, is an admission of incapacity or lack of will on the part of Congolese actors. Justice before international or mixed courts is essentially symbolic in the sense that it can only hear a limited number of cases. After all, the International Criminal Court has already carried out prosecutions and has remained seized of the case since 2004. Given the exorbitant costs that such an approach entails, investing in the capacity of Congolese courts to deliver justice for all, as well as for violations. past than present, would be beneficial at a time when Africa is called upon to define its future.

With the support of institutions such as Avocats sans frontières and the International Center for Transitional Justice, Congolese courts have demonstrated their potential to overcome structural challenges – such as institutionalized corruption – to investigate cases, which are often very sensitive and high-profile. , on certain crimes. The complaint recently lodged with the Congolese courts on crimes committed in the Minembwe region and hate speech is part of this framework. Rather than spending resources on angel foreign judges, prosecutors and justice experts, institutional strengthening of the capacity of Congolese legal practitioners to deliver truly independent, impartial and inclusive justice would contribute to a real decolonization of justice interventions, peace and security in the DRC and its eastern region.

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