HRW asks DRC to free youth activists

2016-03-15 21:11

Kinshasa - Leading rights watchdog Human Rights Watch on Tuesday asked DRC authorities to immediately free two civil society activists arrested a year ago during a pro-democracy workshop.

The New York-based group said the arrest of Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala on March 15 last year was part of a growing government crackdown on those speaking out against President Joseph Kabila's bid to extend his stay in power beyond a constitutional two-term limit, ending December 19.

"The authorities should immediately drop the baseless charges and release Bauma, Makwambala, and other activists and politicians held solely for peacefully expressing their political views," a statement said.

The pair, both in their 20s, were arrested along with at least two dozen other people - including Senegalese and Burkinabe activists and an American diplomat - during a workshop on good governance in Africa.

Congolese authorities then accused them of planning terrorist activities and a violent insurrection. They were held without charge for weeks and then transferred to Kinshasa's main prison where they remain.

In June last year they were charged with belonging to an association formed to attack people and property, plotting a conspiracy against the head of state, and attempting to either destroy or change the constitutional regime or incite violence against the state.

Bauma is a member of the pro-democracy movement LUCHA or Struggle for Change while Makwambala works with the Filimbi civil society group that organised the March 2015 good governance workshop.

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