Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized republic with a population of approximately 60 million. Presidential and National Assembly elections in July 2006 and a presidential runoff in October 2006 were judged credible by international observers. In all areas of the country, the government's human rights record remained poor, and security forces acted with impunity, committing numerous serious abuses, including unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, and rape, and engaged in arbitrary arrests and detention. Other serious problems included harsh and life‑threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities; prolonged pretrial detention; lack of an independent and effective judiciary; and arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home. Security forces recruited and retained child soldiers and compelled forced labor by adults and children. Members of the security forces also continued to abuse and threaten journalists, contributing to a decline in freedom of the press. Government corruption remained pervasive. Security forces at times harassed local human rights advocates and UN human rights investigators.

Part 2

U.S. strategies to promote democratic principles, practices, and values in the country focus on building democratic institutions; reforming the judicial sector; promoting respect for the rule of law and human rights; and supporting transparent governance, civic participation, legislative accountability, and political pluralism. U.S. priorities also aim to reinforce political will and capacity for robust and effective leadership and oversight across all levels of government to support efforts by the country's fledgling constitutional institutions to build a legitimate democratic state.

Part 3

The United States is committed to working with the government and international partners to reestablish peace and security and restore state authority in the country's eastern provinces, where ethnic militia, local warlords, and government troops have caused significant population displacement, low-level conflict, and widespread human rights abuses. In November 2007 the U.S. government established a diplomatic presence in North Kivu Province and helped facilitate an agreement between the country and Rwanda to address the common threat of Rwandan armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. In December 2007 U.S. government facilitation also helped bring a cessation of hostilities in North Kivu following defeat of government troops by renegade forces. The U.S. government also continues to act as facilitator of the Tripartite Plus Commission, a regional forum bringing together the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi for discussion of regional security issues. U.S. programs provide technical and material assistance, including training, to key government institutions, including the National Assembly, provincial assemblies, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Permanent Commission for the Reform of Congolese Law. U.S. government funding also assists initiatives to increase public input into key legislation on judicial reform, decentralization, elections management, and political parties. The United States continued to support development of post-electoral political processes, and U.S. funds provide training in communications, recruitment, finances, and other skills for members of political parties. Such funds also support local efforts to facilitate dialogue between civil society and elected officials.

U.S.-sponsored outreach brought together university students to promote nonviolent advocacy skills and interaction with local government leaders and implemented a workshop linking the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the importance of the rule of law. U.S.-funded International Visitor Leadership Programs enabled legislators, judges, and journalists to travel to the United States and meet with their American counterparts. Nine members of the National Assembly studied legislative processes in the United States and the relationship between elected officials and their constituents. Judges and magistrates were introduced to the United States justice system in a program emphasizing judicial ethics and impartiality. In addition, broadcast professionals participated in the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists in the United States. Another program enabled television and radio staff to produce programming that encouraged dialogue between government and civil society. U.S. efforts to advance press freedom included support for training of radio production technicians that led to creation of broadcasts in 10 of the country's 11 provinces that inform listeners of their rights and responsibilities as citizens and explain the principles and structures created by the new constitution.

Reform of the justice sector remains a major challenge. The United States supported the establishment of mobile courts that brought essential judicial services to remote areas of the provinces of Equateur and Maniema. The United States funded technical assistance for the drafting of four fundamental laws that will implement the 2006 constitution's mandate to establish an independent judicial system. The United States also supported efforts to increase citizens' access to the justice system. The U.S. government supported anticorruption reform initiatives through debates and roundtables involving government officials and civil society. The U.S. government also funded community-based committees that engaged local authorities and civil society to address the impact of corruption in disrupting local commerce.

Part 4

The U.S. government sponsored human rights training for judges and police and helped organize forums on human rights for activists and government officials. U.S.-sponsored workshops and lectures trained journalists and university students in human rights reporting and established a national network of human rights reporters. A literacy program for women in Orientale Province created reading materials in four languages with information on human rights, elections, and civics. An NGO based in Maniema, in partnership with the United States, organized printing and distribution of international agreements on torture, particularly as they relate to women and children.

The U.S. Government also funded programs to facilitate conflict resolution. In Orientale's Bafwasende region, a U.S.-sponsored NGO provided broadcast and mediation support to a successful effort to peacefully disarm local Mai-Mai militia. A separate program utilized community-based radio theater to mediate conflict and encourage dialogue in vulnerable communities in the DRC's eastern provinces. In South Kivu Province, U.S. funding enabled victims of sexual violence to receive medical assistance, trauma counseling, and reintegration assistance in a society in which victims of sexual violence are often ostracized. U.S. funding also provided legal aid and education to victims of sex crimes and trained magistrates in applying 2006 laws targeting sexual- and gender-based violence.