Congo Opposition to Hold Protest Over Jailing of Youth Activists

A pro-democracy group in the Democratic Republic of Congo said it will lead a protest Tuesday to demand the release of two youth activists who’ve been held in prison for 12 months awaiting sentencing.

The Struggle for Change group, known by its French acronym Lucha, is calling for the release of Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, who were arrested in the capital, Kinshasa, a year ago today, Lucha activist Luc Nkulula said in an interview in the eastern city of Goma. Over the past year, more than a dozen other Lucha activists have been arrested and nine other members of the group are now in prison.

“We will call for their liberation and protest against this government that has held someone in prison for one year even though it knows that person is innocent,” he said.

Lucha is one of a number of politicized youth organizations in Africa, empowered by education and technology, that are shaking up traditional opposition and civil society structures and calling for change. In Burkina Faso in 2014, the youth organization Balai Citoyen played a key role mobilizing opposition to President Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown in a military coup in October 2014 after 29 years in power.

Political Threat

“What Lucha is pioneering is something new in terms of activism in the Congo,” said Jason Stearns, a senior fellow at the New York-based Center on International Cooperation. “They are ready to confront the government and to go to prison, and they are using this is as a tactic. The fact that the government sees Lucha as such a threat is indication of their success.”

Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer and the world’s largest source of cobalt, is preparing to hold presidential elections in November. President Joseph Kabila has yet to say whether he will seek re-election -- a move that would violate the country’s current constitution.

Last month, six Lucha activists were sentenced to six months in prison for incitement to revolt after police found them making banners that called for political change in a private home.

This article was originally published by Bloomberg News on March 15, 2016

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Mar 16, 2016
Thomas Wilson, Jason Stearns
Peace and Security
Sub-Saharan Africa