DRC: French envoy says DR Congo rights situation a 'shipwreck'

Saturday, December 18, 2010
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

A French envoy on Saturday described the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a "shipwreck" after a week-long visit to the country.

"I saw in Goma (eastern DR Congo) a prison with space for 140 people where 1,046 people were living in appalling conditions of overcrowding and hygiene," said Francois Zimeray, French ambassador for human rights.

The inmates survived on little more than a "cup of beans once a day during the week and nothing on Saturday and Sunday," he said.

Zimeray said he also witnessed "the lot of women victims of sexual violence and the total lack of care by institutions."
The ambassador was speaking to AFP in Kinshasa at the end of his visit.

"There have been powerful moments which have given me the feeling of a shipwreck situation in relation to human rights" in the country, he said.

In the city of Goma, he said, human rights activists were "threatened and living in an extremely hard and painful way."
The Congolese Justice and Human Rights Minister Emmanuel-Janvier Luzolo Bambi "did not deny the difficulties" and asked for more support from the international community, said Zimeray.

Zimeray also met Fidele Banzana, whose husband, the driver of murdered human rights activist Floribert Chebeya, is missing, feared killed. He described her plight as "incomprehensible and unacceptable."

Chebeya, 47, president of the human rights group Voice of the Voiceless (La Voix des sans Voix - VSV), was found dead on June 2 in his car with his hands tied behind his back on the outskirts of Kinshasa after a scheduled meeting, which never took place, with a senior police chief.