Case History: Jean-Chrysostome Kijana
On 17 February 2016, human rights defender Mr Jean-Chrysostome Kijana was arrested in Bukavu following a peaceful demonstration organised in protest against a series of forced evictions in Mbobero in January 2016. He was detained and interrogated for over eight hours before being released.
Jean-Chrysostome Kijana is a prominent journalist and human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is the Chairman of Nouvelle Dynamique de la Société Civile en RDC (NDSCI), a human rights organisation which monitors and denounces human rights violations, promotes the rule of law, the right to education, and advocates for the rights of female victims of sexual violence. He is also the journalist in charge of the news agency Syfia Grands Lacs in South-Kivu and the president of ProxyMédias Libres, an association dedicated to the defence and promotion of press freedom and freedom of expression.
On 17 February 2016, human rights defender Mr Jean-Chrysostome Kijana was arrested in Bukavu, following a peaceful demonstration organised in protest against a series of forced evictions in Mbobero in January 2016. He was detained and interrogated for over eight hours before being released.
Members of the National Congolese Police arrested him at approximately 10:40 am at the headquarters of Nouvelle Dynamique de la Société Civile en RDC (NDSCI), during a press conference about the protest.
They detained him at a Bukavu city police station for over eight hours and subjected him to interrogation. Upon being released, the police informed Jean-Chrysostome Kijana that the minutes of his interrogation would be transmitted to the Attorney General and that the authorities would then decide whether he would face charges for disturbing public order and endangering state security.
Jean-Chrysostome Kijana was one of the main organisers of the demonstration which took place on the day of his arrest, which aimed to protest against social injustices in the DRC and in particular a series of arbitrary demolitions that took place on 30 January 2016 in Mbobero. The demolitions, which included approximately 40 houses and buildings, were conducted without any compensation to the families aftected.
The arrest and temporary detention of Jean-Chrysostome Kijana comes in the same month that the human rights defender was forced into hiding after having received threats and reportedly escaped an abduction attempt on 6 February 2016.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern for the arrest and temporary detention of Jean-Chrysostome Kijana, as it believes the actions against him to be directly motivated by his legitimate human rights work and involvement in organising peaceful demonstrations. Further concern is expressed at the possibility that charges may be brought against the human rights defender.
On 6 February 2016, human rights defender Mr Jean-Chrysostome Kijana went into hiding after having received threats and reportedly escaped an abduction attempt on the same day. The incident followed a series of death threats received by the human rights defender.
Jean-Chrysostome Kijana went into hiding on the evening of 6 February 2016. Earlier on the same date, the human rights defender had been travelling to Kigali, Rwanda. After crossing the border between Rwanda and DRC at Ruzizi I, he received a phone call in which the unknown caller told him to turn back without hesitation, because “something bad” was going to happen to him. After reporting the incident to Rwandan immigration officials, Jean-Chrysostome Kijana decided to return to the DRC. Once in the city of Bukavu, he met with a civil servant from the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) who told him that a plot to abduct him had been orchestrated within the ANR. During the conversation, the human rights defender was also alerted through phone calls and text messages from an old friend currently working at ANR, who instructed him to 'lay low' for a while. Later on the same day, the human rights defender received a text message from an unknown sender that read: "pour qui te prend tu, pour te permettre de faire le bras de fer avec le chef? cette fois-ci tu ne t’en sortira pas" (“who do you think you are, to struggle against the leader? This time you won't get away with it”).
There is reason to believe that the human rights defender has been the target of intelligence services in the region. Recently, the security and intelligence chief, General Delphin Kahimbi, criticised the human rights defender for participating in the Pan-African Seminar in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in late January, where forms of civil society mobilisation and democratic processes in Africa were discussed; and for his intervention in a series of arbitrary demolitions of approximately 40 houses and buildings, including a neurosurgical medical center, on 30 January 2016, in the city of Mbobero.
The human rights defender has previously been targeted for his human rights work. In December 2014 Jean-Chrysostome Kijana received several phone calls and text messages in which both he and his family were threatened.
On the evening of 1 December 2014, Jean-Chrysostome Kijana started to receive threatening calls from a man identifying himself as an intelligence agent who warned him that he had been writing too much lately. Following these calls, the human rights defender received a series of threatening text messages, one of which specifically threatening his children. It is reported that NDSCI's lawyer also received a threatening text message on the same evening from one of the above numbers. On 4 December 2014, the lawyer filed a complaint against the unknown perpetrator.
These threats seem to be linked to a statement that the organisation NDSCI released earlier on that same day, 1 December 2014, in which NDSCI called on the government to resolve the deadlock caused by the magistrates' strike, which began on 3 November in various cities in which they campaign for higher wages. By releasing this public statement, NDSCI hoped for a quick resumption of judicial affairs so that proceedings would not be delayed, specifically for the protection of defendants. In their public statement, the NDSCI also denounced all acts of intimidation against the magistrates on strike.
Furthermore, since 15 October 2014, NDSCI has actively taken part in the international campaign '”Tournons la Page” (Turning the Page), a pro-democracy and apolitical movement initiated in several African countries to support the principle of democratic change in Africa. On the first day of the campaign, 15 October 2014, during a large demonstration in Bukavu, NDSCI publicly and officially stated their opposition to any amendment of the constitution that would allow the current president Joseph Kabila to abolish presidential term limits and run for a third term in 2016. Following this demonstration, NDSCI continued this campaign with conferences and radio talks. It is in this context that, on 30 November 2014, during its participation in a radio debate called Peace and Development in Bukavu, which is very popular in Eastern Congo, NDSCI again took a clear and firm position against such constitutional amendments.