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DRC: Human rights defender Jean François Mombia forced to leave Kinshasa after a series of threats
On 14 July 2012, Mr Jean François Mombia, a human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was forced to leave the city of Kinshasa because of fears for his security.
This came after several weeks of incessant intimidations and threats suffered by the defender in the wake of an interview he gave on 25 May concerning a police operation launched in Kinshasa in April 2012.
Jean François Mombia is the President of Réseau d'Information et d'Appui aux ONGs en République Démocratique du Congo – Information and Support Network for NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RIAO), an umbrella organisation that brings together several dozen NGOs and farmer associations located in various provinces of the country.
The aim of this network is to strengthen the capacities of its members, whilst acting as their representative in their dealings with different actors, including the media. Since its creation in 2006, RIAO has been particularly active in the promotion of minority rights and in the campaign against landmines, all under the direction of Jean François Mombia.
HRD threatened with disappearance after criticising the president
After giving an interview on 25 May, Jean François Mombia was subjected to constant police surveillance and shadowing. On the morning of 29 May 2012, Jean François Mombia was accosted by 6 men from the special services of the police, who accused him of insulting the President in his interview with RFI. They took him to the police station, locked him up in a cell for a few hours and threatened to make him disappear. He was eventually released after a bribe of USD 300 was paid.
The defender then decided to temporarily leave the city of Kinshasa. He relocated to the province of Equateur and stayed there for 12 days in the hope that those who were threatening him would eventually stop. In mid-June, Jean François Mombia returned to Kinshasa, but he soon realised that the shadowing and surveillance had not stopped in spite of his attempts to keep a low profile.
Jean François Mombia escaped an attempted kidnapping
At the beginning of July, an army officer who knows him informed him that his name was on the security services' blacklist. On 6 July, he escaped an attempted kidnapping while travelling to Kinshasa. By chance, a vehicle came between him and strangers in a black Toyota Prado who were pursuing him, giving him the opportunity to escape.
On the nights of 8 and 9 July, his home was attacked by strangers who injured one of his dogs. On the nights of 12 and 13 July, his home was again attacked by strangers, who left after breaking the light bulb that lights the exterior part of the house. As a consequence of these intimidations and threats, Jean François Mombia has resolved to flee Kinshasa once again.
These threats and intimidatory acts began after Jean François Mombia was interviewed on 25 May 2012 by Bruno Minas, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI), about a police operation in the city of Kinshasa called “Opération ville propre” (Operation Clean City). This operation, which was launched in the month of April 2012, aims to make the city of Kinshasa more presentable before the opening of the Francophone Summit next October. The operation is headed by Colonel Kanyama, otherwise known as “Esprit des Morts” (Spirit of the Dead).
In his interview with RFI, Jean François Mombia raised the problems of human casualties and material damages that the aforementioned operation has caused. He spoke of one victim whose shop was set on fire, without her having had the opportunity to remove her money and goods. The victim's account, a woman speaking in Lingala, hinted at what she believed was the true nature of the operation and how it seems to be a form of revenge against the people who did not vote for the President.
Front Line Defenders believes that the acts of harassment and intimidation to which Jean François Mombia has been subjected are solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate human rights work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, namely his opposition to the human rights violations committed during “Operation Clean City”.