Right now, five pro-democracy youth activists are facing three years in jail in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their crime? Mobilising people to protest for inclusive, peaceful and credible elections.
In the DRC, presidents are only allowed to serve two terms – it’s in the Constitution. But when time ran out for President Joseph Kabila in 2016, he refused to budge.
So, in 2017, five pro-democracy activists, Grâce Tshiunza, Mino Bopomi, Cedric Kalonji, Carbone Ben and Palmer Kabeya, helped publicise protests to defend the Constitution. They called for the release of political prisoners, respect for a free press and the return of opposition leaders from exile.
The demonstrations were met with brutal force and at least 17 people were killed, dozens injured, and the five activists arrested.
After being held incommunicado in detention for almost six months, the five have now been charged with “insulting the Head of State” and “inciting civil disobedience” and face three more years behind bars.
For too long, the Congolese authorities have locked up citizens who speak up for democracy. But they’re starting to feel the pressure. After waves of protests, President Kabila just announced that he won’t contest the next election.