More than two weeks ago, several activists from youth movements (Filimbi, Struggle for Change, Countdown and New Congolese elite) were abducted in Kinshasa in the middle of the day as they were demanding that President Kabila step down from power. Among these young people, there were Chris Shematsi, Carbon Mwena Congo, Samuel Bosasele Lissa and John Ngandu. A few days after their abduction, another young activist was also kidnapped. Her name is Gloria Sengha Panda Shala. This type of abduction has also taken place in other towns in the Congo, notably in Goma and Mbuji-Mayi. In almost all cases, the destination of the abductees remains unknown and the competent authorities remain silent on requests for explanations from the families. These families are totally helpless, not knowing where to go to receive information about their loved ones.
What will it take to get these young people released? In asking this question, we assume that they are still alive and detained in secret dungeons and prisons of the Kabila regime.
These young people first need the support of all social and religious groups in the Congo. In their homilies of Christmas, the Archbishop of Kinshasa and several other priests gave their support to these young activists, demanding their immediate release. For the Archbishop of Kinshasa, these young people “only claim their rights to live with a little more dignity.” All other major religious denominations must follow the example of the Catholic Church and educate their members and ask them to contact their MPs. Praying is not enough. We must act and alert all the representatives of the people.
The Congolese National Assembly must look into the fate of these young people. This case is so serious that the deputies should in principle convene the Minister of the Interior and Justice to ask them for explanations on the disappearance of these militants. Why is the place of their detention secret? When will they be released? Who will be responsible for any evil that has happened to these young people? These are questions that the representatives of the people must ask the government.
Until now, the government of Samy Badibanga remains deaf to the demands of the families. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the release of these young activists is not within the jurisdiction of the government, and families should instead go to the police station at the place of arrest or complain to the court. In simpler terms, Lambert Mende is telling families that the Congo government does not give a damn and that they have to go and get help elsewhere.
President Kabila, of course, will not help the families, as it is possible that these young activists are detained in the presidential dungeons. That is why we believe it is important for the Congolese opposition to seize this matter and put pressure on the Kabila regime so that these young militants can be freed. The opposition should not sign the political agreement with the Kabila regime before not only all political opponents but also these young activists are released. There should be no political “peace” without the release of Chris Shematsi, Carbon Mwena Congo, Samuel Bosasele Lissa, John Ngandu and Gloria Sengha Panda Shala.
The Congolese opposition must understand that demanding the return of Moise Katumbi is important. But this return does not mean anything if young Congolese are abducted and detained indefinitely in secret places. If this opposition signs the political agreement with the Kabila regime without obtaining the release of all the men and women detained unjustly, it will have failed in its mission.
The Congolese opposition and civil society must send a clear message to the government of Samy Badibanga and the security services. Never again will Congolese men and women be abducted and detained with impunity. Someone must answer for these criminal acts that are not the pride of a great nation like the Congo.
Finally, we believe that the international community must also put pressure on the Kabila regime so that Chris Shematsi, Carbon Mwena Congo, Samuel Bosasele Lissa, John Ngandu, Gloria Sengha Panda Shala and the other young detainees are released. The representatives of Monusco, the UN and the EU in Kinshasa must request explanations from the Prime Minister. By illegally detaining these young activists, the government flouts national and international laws of freedom and justice. It is therefore essential that the international community, through their representatives in Kinshasa, demonstrate their support for these young activists
After their release, the perpetrators of these kidnappings must give explanations to the people. It will be crucial for families to sue the services responsible for the kidnapping of their relatives. The culture of justice must settle in the Congo. The methods of the Nazi regime must have no place in Congo. State services cannot continue to crush individual freedoms with impunity. Things will change in Congo as soon as those responsible for illegal kidnappings and detentions are prosecuted and severely condemned for their criminal actions.
In the meantime, we join our voice with that of thousands of women and men who are demanding that these young Congolese militants be released immediately. This voice cries out of Kinshasa, Goma, Uvira, Mbuji-Mayi, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Boma, Johannesburg, Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Austin and elsewhere. It is time that the regime of Kabila and the government of Samy Badibanga listen to this voice and free our compatriots!