Democratic Republic of Congo
According to reports coming out of the DRC, forty people were arrested, including 14 Congolese, Senegalese and Burkinabe artists, on 15 March in Kinshasa in the commune of Masina, on the premises of Eloko Makasi.
The reasons for their arrest are to this moment still unclear, and so far no one knows under what conditions the detainees are being held.
This arrest raises many questions: how do we define the role of artists? And what are their rights?
The Facts so far
Fadel Barro, Aliou Sane, Malal Talla of the Senegalese movement "Y’en marre” (We’ve had enough) and Oscibi Johann of the Burkinabe movement "Balai Citoyen” (Citizen Broom) had been invited by Filimbi (whistle blowers), a new Congolese civic movement that aims for greater youth participation in politics, for a 2-day program. The Saturday March 14 program was scheduled as a meeting between artists and young people to discuss citizen engagement and participation in the democratic processes in their respective countries. These are themes that should not trouble a government that abides by democratic principles.
On Sunday 15 March, a press conference was held with the artists in the premises of Eloko Makasi to present the project before a scheduled concert. The concert never took place. Two men dressed in military police uniform, accompanied by civilian officers, arrested an estimated forty people, including journalists, the foreign artists and a US diplomat Kevin Sturr who was in the audience.
Artists are not terrorists!
By early evening on 15 March, the authorities made a television appearance where they portrayed the Congolese artists of the movement "Filimbi", “Y-en-a –marre” and “Balai Citoyen as “terrorists.”
Terrorism is defined as violence (intimidation, attacks, hostage-taking, etc.) committed by individuals or organizations to create a climate of fear and insecurity by which to intimidate or blackmail a government and its societies.
As indicated in the press release issued by the movement Filimbi "We are not terrorists!
To be clear, none of these artists have ever been charged of terrorist acts.
Artists are mirror for society and a mouthpiece of the people. Artists express who they, what they see and what they feel- without violence. Artists aren’t terrorists!
If an artist through his engagement, positions him or herself in opposition to a political system, then the Article 8 of the Constitution guarantees his or her security: "Political opposition is recognized in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rights to its existence, its activities and its struggle for democratic conquest of power are sacred”. Similarly, it is important to emphasize that Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right as recognized and reflected in Article 23 of the same Constitution.
Dialogue, not repression
Arterial Network supports the Filimbi movement in its application to meet with the authorities, to undertake constructive dialogue, and its demand for the release of the artists.
The preamble to the 2011 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo,: "We consider injustice, impunity, nepotism, regionalism, tribalism and clientelism, for their many vicissitudes, to be behind the general inversion of values and ruin of this country". In this light it would seem that this arrest severely taints the country's democratic processes.
Keeping artists in custody without justification or indication of the conditions of their release, branding them as terrorists, is in violation of DRC’s Constitution. It is also an offense to all of the international conventions on human rights it has ratified.
Arterial Network, and its programme Artwatch Africa, strongly condemn the arrests. We urge the authorities to respect, protect and uphold the individual and collective freedom of artists, and of all citizens.
We call for their immediate release.
Nairobi, 16 March 2021
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