‘The impunity must stop in the DRC’: Meet the exiled Congolese activist fighting for peace in DRC
After rallying against then-President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Jenny Dakosta Van Mputu fled his home country and sought refuge in the United Kingdom.
He became a human rights activist to fight the impunity, injustice, and embezzlement of the Congolese people’s public funds.
Soon after, the activist founded No Impunity for the Congolese State (NICS) to help combat the human rights abuses in the DRC and has continued to organise and mobilise protests in DRC, collecting testimonies and information from fellow protesters to form a case against the Congolese regime for their human rights violations.
The media has nothing to gain... The conflicts in question are at the origin of the extraction of several raw materials essential to the financial success of men behind said media... The camera and France24 cameraman doesn’t exist without the coltan of the DRC"
Since the 1990s, a cycle of violence and impunity has crystalised in the DRC. Two successive wars involving at least seven regional foreign powers and a multitude of local armed groups have led to massive human rights violations, including assassinations, rapes and torture.
“The wars are over, but their repercussions remain strong,” Jenny tells The New Arab. “The wounds of the past are left raw, and serious violence still punctuates and tears my country.”
Today, DRC has been caught in a cycle of violence and exploitation in what many experts are coining a “silent genocide” following the exploitation of their naturally occurring cobalt – a natural metal used in many commercial, industrial and military applications.
The country has been a major supplier of these metals since the Second World War.
But the extraction of cobalt has become intertwined with violence, corruption, exploitation and modern-day slavery. Armed groups and militias have seized control of numerous mining sites, imposing a reign of terror upon local communities to gain dominance over the lucrative trade.
Almost seven million people have been internally displaced due to the threat of violence and atrocities, extreme poverty and mining expansion. While miners are working in “subhuman, grinding, degrading conditions” to gather the metal.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo is a geological scandal,” says Jenny, explaining that the extraction and the money generated from the sale of precious minerals have fuelled a silent conflict in the Great Lakes region for many years.
“The DRC is among the ten most fragile countries in the world,” Jenny says. "A country is considered fragile concerning its vulnerability to social, economic, political and security pressures.
"We also speak of a fragile state when the latter no longer assumes its essential functions, no longer controls the entirety of its territory and therefore cannot reach to ensure the safety of its population.”
Because of these shortcomings, the population suffers, with the state unable to provide basic services to its population or pay civil servants, whether teachers, police, or soldiers.
This further entrenches endemic corruption, plaguing all sectors and seriously harming the country’s development.
“The justice system is also failing because it’s being taken for granted by former President Joseph Kabila, which undermines its duty of impartiality,” says Jenny.
“Consequently, those responsible can perpetuate their acts of violence with complete impunity, even for the most serious crimes,” he adds.
But despite the number of deaths and mass displacement, Jenny mentions the lack of attention from Western media.
“The media has nothing to gain,” says Jenny. “The conflicts in question are at the origin of the extraction of several raw materials essential to the financial success of men behind said media.
“The France24 cameraman doesn’t exist without the coltan of the DRC. We all know this guy cares about his job, so he’ll just film elsewhere.”
Jenny explains that the owners of mass media also own the mining companies that plunder and exploit Congo’s natural resources, like Samsung and Apple.
“There are no major economic, financial or geopolitical interests of great magnitude,” Jenny explains. “The deaths are not enough or significant for them to make it a priority because there’s still a lot to gain from leaving this area in perpetual conflict.
“This is an open secret.”
The conflict is essential to the financial successes of what Jenny calls the world’s “most influential men” – the people who hold global power – who give and dictate the path in which the world must function according to their good humour, interest and economic-financial profit.
“The media are owned by influential people who are partly responsible for the wars in North Kivu, and talking about it would raise questions about those who support these wars to plunder the wealth of the DRC,” says Jenny.
“The media turns a blind eye to certain conflicts related to their interests, and they draw their lines following their corporate interests.”
For years, Jenny has been denouncing the impunity in Congo. To raise awareness and hold those accountable, the activist has submitted to the International Criminal Court of Justice, where he details the role of several military leaders and political leaders, past and present, who, to date, have never really been brought to justice.
“Many of the abuses I’ve listed would qualify as crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even crimes of genocide,” Jenny explains.
“I noted and identified more and carried out an inventory of 617 violent incidents committed between 1993 and 2003, listed in the ‘Mapping Report’.
“In vain, because the latter has been sleeping in a drawer since October 2010, while other violence is taking place, like that witnessed in the Kasai region since August 2016.”
Jenny says the only thing missing is a political party capable of stopping this cycle of violence and impunity.
“The impunity must stop in DRC,” Jenny says. “Congolese authorities should immediately end their crackdown on peaceful gatherings and freedom of expression.”
The activist explains impunity deprives victims of necessary recognition and denies them truth and reparation. Furthermore, it prevents Congolese society from building a spirit of harmony where human rights are respected while those responsible for past crimes remain in power.
“It’s urgent to act to prevent these tragedies from continuing or being repeated so that the Congolese can finally live in peace,” says Jenny.
“I once again call on the Congolese authorities to establish an independent and impartial transitional justice system to establish responsibilities, deliver justice and repair harm.”
Anam Alam is a freelance writer who frequently writes on human rights and social issues, including women’s rights and sex education
Follow her on Twitter: @itsanamalam