Target: President Joseph Kabila
Goal: Release lawyer Muhindo Nzangi from prison
A lawyer in the Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for comments he made during a radio show. The radio show was a debate over a dangerous rebel group in the nation and the lawyer merely gave his opinion on what the government should do about this threat. Unfortunately his words have landed him in jail.
Nzangi was arrested for endangering international security; his arrest came two days after the radio show aired. Several days later the police stormed into a peaceful sit in, beating protesters with their batons and arresting five and threatening them with charges of rebellion. Fortunately all of those arrested were released the next day, but it illuminates the corruption in the police force and the government. Nzangi is also a member of the Movement for Social Renewal, one of the largest political parties in the nation. He is also a member of parliament in Goma.
The topic of the radio show concerned the M23, a Rwanda rebel group known for killing and raping civilians. The almost three hour long debate also covered the role of civil society. Nzangi told the Congolese people that they should ask their government to end talks with the M23 rebels and continue military operations against them. He then asked the people to pressure their President Joseph Kabila and the United Nations into keeping the peace by having silent sit ins and marches. He implored the people to not act in a violent manner should the opposition appear in their vans. Shortly after the radio show aired he received an anonymous call warning him to flee because he had upset the president. Hours after the call he was arrested, flown to a different city where he was given his charges and immediately afterwards began his trial with the Supreme Court, leaving him with no time to prepare for his case.
The actions of the Democratic Republic of Congo is violating their people’s freedom of speech rights and their right to assembly. Nzangi was not endangering the security of the nation by expressing his views, the reason he was targeted was simply because he angered the president. The people who conducted peaceful sits in were not endangering the nation, the police did. Nzangi deserves to be free. Sign the petition below and make your voice heard.
Dear President Joseph Kibila,
I am writing to demand that you release the lawyer Muhindo Nzangi from prison. He is charged with endangering international security but I do not understand how expressing your views could put your nation into jeopardy. I do not understand how asking for your people to demonstrate peacefully – and asking them not to resort to violence – could pose a danger to your nation. Nzangi was not releasing information that could jeopardize your people’s security, all he expressed were his opinions. By arresting him on those grounds you are silencing your people from speaking freely which is violating a basic human right – the right to freedom of speech.
By having your police force go in and disrupt a peaceful sit in you are also violating their rights to peaceful assembly. It is clear that you do not care for their rights and I wish you did. By respecting your people’s rights you let them know that you care; instilling fear and suffering does not make a nation stronger, it makes it weaker. It is not fair that Nzangi wasn’t allowed to fight for his case fairly in the Supreme Court, nor is it fair to arrest him for what he said in a radio show. Henceforth I am asking once again for his immediate release.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Teresa Heart via flickr