Activist murder shows perilous side of campaigning in DRC

Posted by jamie — 9 June 2010 at 4:29pm - Comments

It's easy to forget that, even though we moan about discredited political systems and infringement of civil liberties, in the UK we don't actually have it that bad. It's rare that anyone in the UK would feel in danger for speaking out against the government but of course that's not the case in other parts of the world. A shocking reminder of this came with the news last week that a prominent human rights activist was murdered in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was the executive director of La Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless), an organisation he set up in 1983 to expose human rights abuses and injustice in the DRC. But last Wednesday in Kinshasa he was found dead in his car, and his driver is still missing. According to the news wires, there'll be an investigation into Bahizire's death but there are questions over how revealing it will be. So much so that an open letter has been sent to the president Joseph Kabila from over 50 human rights groups, advocating an open, impartial inquiry.

Of course, Greenpeace has a team in Kinshasa and the challenges of campaigning there are markedly different than from a comfortable office in London. Intimidation and murder against those working to improve the lives of those who are disenfranchised and disregarded is unacceptable wherever it happens, and with the 50th anniversary of independence for the DRC approaching at the end of the month, Bahizire's murder will cast a long shadow over the celebrations.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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