Congo: churches protest over death of human rights campaigner

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire

Deep concern over the recent death of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and the "increased oppression against Congolese human rights defenders" during the past year was expressed by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in a letter to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 4 June.

Chebeya was the executive director of La Voix des Sans-Voix (Voice of the Voiceless), one of the DRC's most important human rights organizations.

Chebeya's body was found in his car on Wednesday morning. He had been called to a meeting with the national police chief, which did not take place, the previous night. His driver has been missing since then.

WCC general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit urged the DRC government "to act as agents of the rule of law" and added: "The government has a responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of its citizens and should demonstrate this respect by conducting a full, open and transparent investigation into the death of Mr Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and the fate of his driver, Mr Fidele Bazana Edadi."

Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN investigator Philip Alston said the circumstances of the death "strongly suggested official responsibility". The DRC government has ordered an inquiry into the death.

La Voix des Sans-Voix is part of the WCC human rights defenders network in Africa. Chebeya was a member of the planning committee of a human rights workshop that the WCC and other Christian organizations held in Kinshasa last April.  At the ecumenical workshop, Congolese church leaders committed themselves to promote respect for human dignity and fundamental human rights.

Source: WCC

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