Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Impunity Watch in DRC
We have worked on successive programmes in DRC since 2012/2013 aiming to promote the peaceful transformation of conflicts at the local community level and to influence policy-making at the national and regional levels. Much of the focus of our work has been centered on increasing the political influence of Congolese citizens, with specific attention for women and youth.
Together with our long-term partners, RACOJ and ADEPAE, and our new partners, our current focus is to support civil society efforts to implement transitional justice processes at the community and national levels. We aim to ensure that citizens have a stake in those processes through the use of participatory methodologies that center on active victim participation, as well as through the use of targeted advocacy strategies that bring together diverse civil society perspectives.
The DRC gained its independence from Belgium in 1960. Ever since, the country has experienced civil wars, a dictatorial regime and localized conflicts that have left the socioeconomic and security fabric destroyed.
Taking advantage of the prevailing political chaos after independence, Mobutu Sese Seko took power in a military coup. Whilst Mobutu managed to impose a certain degree of stability after the post-independence turmoil, he established a single-party regime through which he ruled the country for nearly 32 years. During his rule, the economy crumbled and public services almost completely disappeared.
After the wave of democratization that followed the end of the Cold War, Mobutu intentionally provoked chaos and plunged the country into instability. He was overthrown in 1997, but prior to his removal from power ethnic tensions had been increasing, as seen by events in among others, the Katanga province, North Kivu, and South Kivu, where ethnic and tribal tensions turned violent. These tensions were the prelude to the armed conflicts that cost hundreds of lives in 1993.
The aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide exacerbated the problems in eastern DRC. Huge numbers of refugees fled to DRC, among whom the former Rwandan military and Interahamwe militia. Due to these refugees, the security situation in the country worsened and ethnic tensions were further fueled. In 1996 and 1998 wars broke out in DRC backed by Rwanda and Uganda during which thousands of people lost their lives.
Peace agreements signed in 2002 and 2003 helped put an end to the violence and somewhat reunited the country. Although large-scale conflict has subsided, political instability and insecurity continue. Among others, the 2003 peace agreement contains provisions on transitional justice and in particular a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a special criminal court.
To date, only a TRC has been created, which was in place during the political transition from 2003 to 2006. However, due to diverse political dynamics, the TRC did not fulfill its principal mandate of establishing the truth about past abuses and promoting reconciliation. Ever since, there have been various recommendations calling for the creation of a new TRC. Thus far, despite a small number of judicial processes, victims and their families are yet to benefit from the reparations they have been promised. Failure to effectively implement transitional justice has been a root cause of an enduring deeply-entrenched culture of impunity and mistrust between different ethnic and tribal communities – especially in the East of DRC.