One hundred and thirty people were lynched by the crowd in 2021 and more than twenty since the beginning of the year: man, woman, child, no one is spared. In the province of southern Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the population has been doing justice for almost three years by stopping the lives of alleged perpetrators. Votes are raised to condemn this practice.
Pain, sadness, bitterness: these are the emotions that have driven Sylvestre Mushaga, a teacher, since the loss of his aunt, Arrieta M’Mihando. She lived in the village of Buhehe, Kabare’s territory, north of the city of Bukavu, South Kivu Province, DRC.
“It was July 8, around 6 in the morning,” Mushaga recalls. “We were still asleep when we heard a lot of noise in the neighborhood. I’m the oldest in the house, so I rushed over to see what was going on.” to tell: “We just caught your aunt, naked, and we’re abusing her. If you go there, we risk hitting you too. “
“We found his body on fire” The teacher is torn between helping his aunt or preserving his life. “I was scared. You know, it’s a little complicated here. If you’re trying to testify for someone caught by the crowd, we’ll take you as an accomplice.
Sylvestre Mushaga still decides to go there, together with two friends. But it’s a horror scene that he discovers when he gets there. “We found his body on fire. It’s the worst moment I’ve had. We went home quickly because I could not look. I could not stand this tragedy. A few hours later the police came and the village chief allowed us to evacuate my aunt’s remains. »
According to witnesses, Arrieta M’Mihando was accused of witchcraft by the crowd. The latter suspected her of being the cause of a young boy’s death.
Journalist on Star Radio
One hundred and thirty people were lynched in one year
One hundred and thirty people were lynched and burned by the crowd in one year: this is the sad fee published on January 10, 2022 in the bulletin on the synergy effects of youth associations for civic and electoral education and the promotion of human rights in southern Kivu (SAJECEK-Forces Vives) . Among them, Arrieta M’Mihando (read elsewhere). This human rights defense structure indicates that September 2021 recorded the highest number of victims, exactly thirty, and Uvira’s territory was the most affected. with ten cases listed. This organization deplores the silence of the “total authorities” and the deficit in security management in southern Kivu. Some relatives of the victims are asking the competent authorities to better guarantee the safety of people and more speed from the police when a person is threatened by the crowd. And since January, more than twenty people have been killed by the crowd.
Why perseverance in this practice?
Public opinion is unanimous: the resurgence of mob lawsuits in southern Kivu is a fact. And the numbers are there to show it (read elsewhere). But why is the population increasingly choosing the illegal path and taking justice into their own hands? For many respondents, the answer is clear: it is the lack of confidence in the security and justice system that forces them to act in this way. At the same time as they regret these actions, some residents thus reject the responsibility of the state. must work independently and objectively to punish all reluctant people who disturb the peace of society “, explains Prospère Bisimwa, a resident of the village of Tshofi, in the territory of Kalehe. Delphin Birimbi, coordinator of the Ensemble pour la promotion of human rights (EPDH), agrees and adds that “the lack of awareness among the civilian population and the police and security forces partly explains the persistence of this sideline”.
What the Congolese law says
Me Pascal Mupenda is the director of the country program for the human rights organization Partnership for Integrated Protection (PPI). He says he understands the fear that the population feels when they see a person who was arrested and considered a “robber”. And he realizes that she has no confidence in the security forces and justice.
Only the judiciary has the power to administer justice
Thus, it is stated “from Article 149, (that) the judiciary is the only one that has the power to administer justice. Which means that no one may take justice into their own hands. Article 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act insists that when a person is prosecuted by public outcry, (he) be taken to the nearest police station, otherwise the perpetrators can be prosecuted for arbitrary arrest, on the basis of which the investigating judge or the judicial police can rely on establishing facts.
The presumption of innocence
Me Pascal Mupenda goes on to talk about responsibility on two levels. And he highlights the principle of “presumption of innocence” mentioned in Article 6 of the Congolese Code of Criminal Procedure and Article 17 of the Constitution. “At this level, you will understand that everyone you can arrest by bringing them to justice, they are there to check whether the person is guilty or not. And as long as it is not yet judged, the person continues to enjoy the presumption of innocence under Article 17 ”, he explains.
What are the possible solutions?
Me Pascal Mupenda, head of the country program for the human rights organization Partnership for Integrated Protection (PPI), appeals for professional strengthening of the police and awareness of the population so that they avoid judging justice. For Théophile Kiluwe, provincial minister of home affairs and security, although cases of mob justice are still being reported in southern Kivu, they have been declining in recent weeks. But social actors and human rights defenders condemn the lack of police personnel who can hold back the crowd during such acts. At this point, the Minister assures. Efforts are being made by the provincial government to curb this scourge: “The shortage of police personnel is a national problem, it is not just in southern Kivu. But there is already a solution that has been considered by the head of state and soon there will be recruitment throughout the republic, in the army and within the police. That is why we continue to train young people to leave armed groups and come and serve the state in the loyal security forces, “he said.