All over the Congo Basin pressure on civil society is growing, with an alarming rise in violence and other restrictions on civil society. In the Republic of Congo, repressive measures range from constraints on freedom of assembly, to excessive red tape and limitations on NGOs’ being able to freely express opinions without fear of retaliation.
The Observatoire congolais des droits de l'Homme - OCDH) has been facing intimidation because of its work to advance human rights and accountability in the country’s forest sector. This has included verbal threats, abusive gatherings of public officials and security services agents intruding on the organisation’s premises.
On 11 May at Brazzaville International Airport, Trésor Nzila, OCDH Executive Director was prevented from boarding a flight to attend a United Nations conference on human rights in Nairobi, Kenya. According to airport authorities, the ban was based on an order by the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of social security requiring a certificate from the Director General of the National Social Security Fund stating that the traveller “is free from any obligation”. OCDH is affiliated with the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) and regularly pays its social contributions.
It appears likely, however, that the government’s decision is linked to the publication, two days earlier, of OCDH’s 2019 annual report on the state of human rights in the Republic of Congo. The release had prompted official accusations and threats against OCDH by the government spokesperson.
The right to freedom of movement is enshrined in Congo’s Constitution and can be impeded only under exceptional, justified circumstances. The Congolese Government also has committed to ensuring effective participation of civil society in governance processes in the natural resource sector, including the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union, blatantly violated by the Authorities.