Friday, July 21, 2017

Jean-Marie and Sylva Released From Military Detention Center

On Monday, July 17, 2017, Jean-Marie Kalonji and Sylva Mbikayi were released from the Military Detection of Unpatriotic Activities (DEMIAP) detention center. The two young activists were detained on June 23rd without being charged of any crimes.

According to Jean-Marie and Sylva, the soldiers who detained them were concerned that they were working with foreign governments to destabilize the Kabila regime. They encountered many other youth in DEMIAP who were detained on similar suspicions. Unlike many of the youth who remain detained at DEMIAP, Jean-Marie and Sylva benefited from an international awareness campaign and empathetic individuals of conscience who facilitated their release. Although the Minister of Human Rights, Mrs. Marie-Ange Mushobekwa tweeted that she spoke to the head of DEMIAP to secure the release of Jean-Marie and Sylva, this account is dubious at best. The one certainty from the Minister's tweet is that she felt the pressure from the letters that were sent to her and the tweets that flooded her account.

Although, Jean-Marie and Sylva are free, they are not out of danger. They are currently getting medical treatment and recovering from the harsh conditions they endured in the military detention center. Unfortunately, many youth remain locked up in the center that for all intents and purposes serves as a warehouse for hundreds of Congolese youth. Many youth have been disappeared without their families knowing their whereabouts - two such cases are Edel Mulumba and Jeff Mulungiomo of Kinshasa. In addition to the DEMIAP detention center there are other youth in jails throughout the country who have been detained; Sephora Astride Bashiya Biduaya in Goma and Nicolas Mbiya in Mbuji Mayi are two other examples. It is imperative that we advocate for the release of these youth and the countless others who linger in Congo's prisons.

Jean-Marie and Sylva benefited tremendously from the support of people of conscience throughout the globe but they represent merely a glimpse into the incarceration state that Joseph Kabila has imposed on the Congolese people, particularly the youth. The widespread arbitrary arrests and warehousing of Congolese youth can surely be classified as crimes against humanity and should draw the ire and outrage of the global community.

Join us in bringing an end to the unwarranted persecution and detention of Congolese youth.

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