Congo, Democratic Republic of

Populous and extremely rich in natural resources, with about 95% of the population identifying as Christian, about half of which being Catholic, the DRC has been wracked by civil conflict and massive human rights abuses for decades. The Catholic Church predominates as an institution, comparable to the state itself.

 
Severe Discrimination
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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief and, in practice, the government generally respects this freedom. However, armed conflict in Congo (formerly Zaire) continues to violate fundamental human rights, especially in Eastern regions where the conflict is on-going.

Conflict and political hegemony

The DRC has been embroiled in a series of conflicts stretching back to 1997 when the massive inflow of refugees from Uganda and Rwanda spurred civil war and toppled the 32 year regime of independence leader Mobutu Sese Seko. The rebellion was led by Laurent Kabila who was then challenged by another internal insurrection backed by Uganda and Rwanda. In 2001, Kabila was assassinated and his son Joseph was made head of state. In 2002 the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan soldiers from East DRC with the support of troops from Chad, Angola and Zimbabwe. Two months later he signed the Pretoria Accord to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.

In 2009 after a re emergence of conflict in eastern DRC, the government signed a peace deal with the Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a primarily ethnic Tutsi rebel force. Efforts to integrate the CNDP into the Congolese military failed, resulting in their defection and the establishment of the armed group the M23, named after the failed March 23 2009 peace deal.

Fighting between the M23 and the DRC government led to major internal displacement and human rights abuses before M23 was pushed into Rwanda and Uganda by a United Nations led offensive in 2013. The DRC continues to struggle with violence committed by other armed militias such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Allied Democratic Forces and various mai mai groups.

Elections were delayed from October 2016 against the constitution and despite Kabila being barred from a third term in office. Failure to hold elections spurred street protests by opposition activists. Elections eventually took place in December 2018. Officials declared opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner in early 2019, but Joseph Kabila resisted the results and remained in power.

Family, community and society

According to most recent estimates there are 4.1 million internally displaced peoples within the DRC. On top of this, the DRC holds half a million refugees from neighbouring countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Deeply ingrained conservative cultural norms can stigmatise and silence LGBTI+ people, who may face prosecution under “indecency” laws if they are openly gay.
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Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are guaranteed by the constitution. But the media are not well developed in Congo. In recent years there have been multiple reports of security forces threatening, detaining, and assaulting journalists critical of government officials. The government has also banned broadcasters who reported on the on-going armed conflict in Eastern Congo. The government does not monitor or censor online communications or restrict access to the internet, but few people have access.

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