Internationally respected and highly valued activist Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was the head of the National Network of Human Rights NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and chairman of La Voix des Sans Voix, one of the DRC’s leading human rights organizations. His murder, on 2 June 2010, dealt a terrible blow to Congolese civil society as a whole and sent shockwaves well beyond DRC’s borders.
On the morning of the 1 June, Floribert Chebeya was summoned by telephone to meet General John Numbi, Police General Inspector, in his office, in Ligwala commune, Kinshasa. He left work at 5 pm to go to the appointment and stayed in touch with his family by phone until around 9 pm, without meeting the General. The following day, the activist’s body was found in a suburb close to his home. His driver, Fidèle Bazana Edadi, was also murdered. Floribert Chebeya had previously been harassed and intimidated by the authorities on several occasions, and shortly before he died, had said that he felt under threat.
On 23 June, the Kinshasa–Gombe military court sentenced five police officers, three of them in their absence, for murder, unlawful arrest and detention, and abduction. Although General Numbi was dismissed from his duties in 2010 in connection with the case, he has never been charged.
Belgian journalist Thierry Michel, the director of the documentary ‘L’affaire Chebeya, un crime d’État?’ (The Chebeya Affair: A State Crime?) about the judicial proceedings against members of the security forces suspected of the double murder, was expelled from the DRC in July 2012 after landing at Kinshasa N’djili airport to take part in the launch of his film.
Two-and-a-half years after the killing of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana, threats and intimidation continue to be rife in the DRC against human rights defenders, members of the opposition and journalists. Meanwhile, widespread human rights violations ¬– rape, summary killings, forced recruitment of civilians, including children, looting and illegal tax collection by different armed groups and the forced displacement of communities –continue unabated and with total impunity in the east of the country.