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TITLE: ZAIRE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ZAIRE President Mobutu Sese Seko has dominated an authoritarian governmental system since 1965, when he took power in a military coup. Although forced by opponents to announce in 1990 an end to the one-party state, Mobutu has steadfastly refused to permit a transition to democracy. A National Conference was convened, composed of 2,800 delegates and chaired by the Archbishop of Kisangani, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. The Conference, which closed under pressure from Mobutu in December 1992, investigated official wrongdoings, drafted a new constitution (intended to be ratified by a referendum), extended President Mobutu's term of office for 2 years, to December 1993, and selected Etienne Tshisekedi Wa Mulumba, Mobutu's most implacable foe, as Prime Minister. In the Transitional Act the Conference also decided to establish a High Council of the Republic (HCR) to exercise legislative functions and to ensure the implementation of conference decisions. Archbishop Monsengwo was chosen as its President. However, since the end of the Conference, President Mobutu has contested Prime Minister Tshisekedi's authority and has also taken actions which challenged the authority and the decisions of the National Conference. On April 1, Mobutu announced Tshisekedi's dismissal as Prime Minister and appointed a defector from Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, Faustin Birindwa, to run a parallel government. Tshisekedi refused to recognize the President's authority to remove him from office, although Mobutu's control of the security apparatus permitted him easily to evict the Tshisekedi ministers from their offices and to maintain de facto control of government operations. At year's end, negotiations to break the political deadlock between the "dual governments" were still in progress. The core questions, which the Zairian political class is unable to resolve, are Mobutu's role and who will lead the transition to democracy as Prime Minister. Control of the security forces continued to be of crucial importance in the ongoing struggle over the transition process. Mobutu has built up overlapping forces. The elite forces of the Civil Guard, headed by President Mobutu's brother-in-law, General Baramoto Kpama Kpata, and the Special Presidential Division (DSP), under his ethnic kinsman General Nzimbi Ngbale, remained generally loyal to the Chief of State. The DSP, in particular, was implicated in many human rights abuses during the year, yet the President took no action against its commander. The 70,000-person regular armed forces became both perpetrator and victim of human rights abuses. Compensation for these forces continued to be at the center of incidents of military indiscipline and abuse of civilians. Looting by soldiers broke out at the end of January in Kinshasa after President Mobutu ordered the troops paid with newly issued 5,000,000 (then worth about $2) Zaire notes, which Prime Minister Tshisekedi had earlier proclaimed "demonetized," and which then were not accepted in commerce. Subsistence agriculture has long been the base of Zaire's economy, but its minerals and mining output--especially copper--traditionally generated the hard currency revenue. Throughout 1993, however, Zaire continued to suffer sharp economic contraction. Diamond exports, mainly outside regulated channels, became the mainstay of Zaire's hard currency revenues, while the output of the rest of the mining sector, hobbled by the lack of new investment, dwindled into insignificance. With public employees unpaid for months at a time, and with little investment or maintenance, Zaire's infrastructure has continued to deteriorate. At the same time, corruption, blackmail, extortion, and embezzlement remained endemic. Inflation slowed to an annualized rate of between 300 and 400 percent during the first 9 months of the year, but accelerated at a hyperinflationary pace during the final 3 months of 1993 in the wake of the Birindwa Government's so-called monetary reform in late October. Average annual inflation for the year is estimated close to 9,000 percent, compared with just over 3,000 percent in 1992. About 70 percent of the population is rural, mainly engaged in subsistence farming; this, along with a deeply rooted extended family system, has permitted people to survive the current economic crisis. Zaire is undergoing its worst human rights crisis since the end of the civil war in the early 1960's. There were massive human rights violations, especially by the Mobutu Government in blocking democratic reform. It used a variety of brutal techniques, including assassination and unlawful detention, to hit at opposition politicians, labor officials, journalists, and human rights monitors. It continued to incite ethnic violence to cause loss of life and massive internal displacement of thousands of persons in Shaba province. Although there was no hard evidence of direct government involvement, there was extensive additional ethnic violence in the province of North Kivu, with resulting heavy loss of life and property. Throughout the year, an atmosphere of insecurity plagued Zaire, with frequent nighttime violence by military elements, disrupting many aspects of government, including judicial operations. Prison conditions, already seriously health threatening, deteriorated further during the year. Hundreds of people lost their lives during the January armed forces uprising, both as a result of the rioting and during the suppression of the looting by loyal elements of the armed forces. No prosecutions resulted from the January mutiny. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There was a pattern of attacks by security forces in 1993, some of them lethal, against opposition party activists. Security forces killed the 28-year-old son of UDPS party leader Frederick Kibassa Maliba, and wounded two of his other children, in an attack on Maliba's home during the January riots. Thirteen gendarmes were implicated in the January 3 death of another politician, Nyamwisi Mwingi of the Federalist Christian Democratic Party, while he was investigating reports of disturbances in the eastern town of Butembo. There were no reports of legal prosecution of the gendarmes arrested in this case. The most serious incident of extrajudicial killing stemmed from an armed forces mutiny that broke out in Kinshasa on January 28. Elements of the SARM (Military Intelligence Unit), the Civil Guard, and the DSP, who remained loyal to President Mobutu, summarily executed up to several hundred soldiers from the regular armed forces during the course of their efforts to suppress military looting. Bodies were observed unburied at roadsides in Kinshasa in the days following the uprising. The Zairian Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO) a local human rights group, estimated the number of dead at 259; other estimates ranged as high as 1,000. The dead were largely mutinous military personnel; however civilian deaths included the French Ambassador, who was shot while standing at the window of his office; a Zairian employee of the French Embassy killed at the same time; and several foreign businessmen killed while trying to protect their property. No one was prosecuted for the murders committed during the uprising. Press accounts reported, however, that a military council convicted 34 commandos in late November for their role in a 1992 uprising in Kisangani. Several people were reported killed in Kinshasa July 4 when police forces put down a rally by the opposition UDPS party; some eyewitnesses said police shot directly into the crowd. A priest was killed in late November when security forces looted a Catholic center and a warehouse for relief supplies in the provincial town of Kananga. Poorly paid and undisciplined, the security forces are frequently accused of robbing and intimidating civilians, sometimes using lethal force. One example of violence and retaliation between undisciplined troops and civilians occurred in February in the Kinshasa neighborhood of Kingasani, when soldiers reportedly killed a well-known sports trainer. Civilians killed a soldier in retaliation, and troops, probably DSP, responded by firing on the funeral procession and the surrounding neighborhood, leaving 20 to 50 people dead. Local human rights groups report several incidents per month in which uniformed personnel assumed to be security forces shoot or beat a civilian to death, often during the course of a robbery. It was not always possible to obtain independent verification of these incidents or of armed forces participation in them. Given the remoteness of much of Zaire's territory, many other incidents in the interior undoubtedly went unreported. While it was impossible to determine with any precision how many deaths can be attributed to armed forces indiscipline, there is enough consistency in the reports to indicate that such deaths are a fairly regular occurrence. Few, if any, of these cases are ever legally prosecuted. The critically underfunded judiciary system has nearly ground to a halt, hampering prosecutions. Furthermore, local human rights groups and others suspect that a degree of Government complicity in the January pillage has caused even more than the usual footdragging in prosecutions of soldiers involved in pillage-related abuses. There are occasional allegations that extremist elements of the Holy Union Opposition Coalition, which backs Tshisekedi, intimidate political opponents, although it was difficult to confirm these incidents. The pro-Mobutu MPR party and a human rights organization, Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), report that Makoba Bidimu, the MPR's Assistant Secretary General for Information, died following a confrontation with a group of militants from the Holy Union's UDPS party. b. Disappearance Given the breakdown of administration throughout Zaire, some reports of disappearances may be attributable to common crimes. While security forces frequently held detainees incommunicado or in secret jails, (see Section 1.d.), they typically have not attempted to conceal the fact of detention. While the number of disappearances may have declined in 1993, there are indications the practice nonetheless persists. Amnesty International reported that at least one person, Emile Nkombo, disappeared in the aftermath of the UDPS demonstration repressed by security forces on July 4. A second UDPS supporter, Rene Kanda, was seized by men in plainclothes in July; he has not been seen since. Occasionally, unidentified bodies are reported floating in the Zaire River near Kinshasa. Disappearances in 1993 and in previous years are widely attributed to secret special intervention forces (or "antiterrorist" units) composed of elements of the DSP or the Civil Guard. These forces, popularly called the "hiboux," or "owls," are believed to have been given the mission of intimidating the political opposition. Human rights monitors had no further information on the 62 Zairian Air Force personnel detained in 1992, allegedly for engaging in pillaging. The Government has ignored repeated requests to allow visits or to disclose these prisoners' whereabouts. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Although torture is forbidden by Zairian law, its use is widespread. Security personnel routinely beat suspects during criminal interrogations, and there are credible reports of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment aimed at punishing and humiliating those suspected of supporting President Mobutu's opponents. Claims of torture are virtually never investigated by the authorities, including the judiciary. Throughout 1993 security forces subjected numerous politicians, armed forces personnel, and journalists associated with the opposition to intimidation. Security forces ransacked their homes, subjected them to obvious surveillance, or beat them. Uniformed men shot and wounded the Counselor for Security to the transitional Prime Minister during a late September attack in his home. Press sources and human rights groups reported that ordinary citizens were frequently subjected to random acts of violence and intimidation as undisciplined and often unpaid security forces resorted to robbery and extortion. Appalling conditions in most of Zaire's 220 prisons are a serious threat to health. Conditions in Kinshasa's Makala Central Prison are typical: Inmates sleep on the floor and have no access to sanitation, potable water, or adequate health care. Meals are of poor quality, scanty, and sporadic. In September the prisoners went for over a week without being fed at all, except by visiting relatives or from the produce of small-scale gardening on the prison grounds. Malnutrition is rampant, as are tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The Zairian Prison Fellowship and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report that they have regular access to the prisons nationwide. Women and juveniles are housed in separate quarters in Makala, but human rights monitors report that controls are inadequate and rapes sometimes occur. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Under Zairian law for serious offenses, punishable by more than 6 months' imprisonment, a warrant is not required for the arrest of a suspect. Any law enforcement officer having the status of "judicial police officer" is empowered to authorize arrest. This status is also vested in senior officers of each of the security services. The law provides that detainees be brought before a magistrate for a hearing within the first 48 hours of arrest. If grounds for arrest are presented, the magistrate may order detention for an initial period of 15 days followed by renewable 30-day periods. In practice, the Mobutu Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention as a means to intimidate political opponents. In April Mobutu's security forces interrogated the transition Government's Foreign Minister, Pierre Lumbi, for 2 days, then kept him under house arrest for several weeks, in connection with the President's contested attempt to replace the transitional Government and force its members to relinquish government documents and seals. According to Amnesty International, AZADHO, and other organizations, the Mobutu forces made over two dozen politically motivated arrests of journalists, labor activists, and opposition party leaders. Many of these arrests occurred in a sweep in late March. A second round of arrests, mostly involving midlevel opposition party officials, began in late October after the Birindwa Government introduced a new currency and decreed imprisonment for anyone who counseled against accepting the new notes. Typically, Mobutu security units held these detainees incommunicado for several weeks or months on accusations that their writings and political activities threatened national security, then granted them a conditional release. The SARM (military intelligence) kept a journalist, Kalala Mbenga Kaleo, in custody from his August 25 arrest through September 22, apparently in connection with an article he wrote for the newspaper La Tempete Des Tropiques, in which he listed the ethnic backgrounds and educational achievements of Zaire's generals and admirals. He was never charged with a crime. In February government troops surrounded the People's Palace, where the High Council of the Republic, the Parliament established under the Transitional Act, was in session. The troops detained HCR members and others in the building without food or potable water for a period of over 48 hours. According to AZADHO's September records, about 66 percent of the inmates of Makala Prison were awaiting trial. This figure represents some improvement over the previous year, when an estimated 85 percent of Makala's inmates were awaiting trial. However, human rights and religious groups report that approximately 80 percent of inmates in Zaire's prisons are still awaiting trial. Many have been imprisoned without trial for several years, in some cases for periods of time longer than the maximum period for which they could have been sentenced if convicted. The number of political detainees and political prisoners held by Mobutu's security forces at year's end was unknown. In December there were 21 people in detention as a result of recent Lumumbist party political demonstrations. There were no known detainees still in detention for opposition to the October "monetary reform." Persons detained in Zaire for political reasons have traditionally been held under administrative detention or house arrest. Many of them are held clandestinely or in military prisons. Human rights organizations estimate there are 40 such prisons in Kinshasa alone. The Government has never implemented the National Security Council guidelines issued in 1990 to end unlawful incommunicado detentions and the practice of internal exile. The law mandates judicial oversight of detention centers, but such oversight rarely occurs, due to official indifference and to a lack of personnel, materiel, and transport. There were no known cases of internal or external exile in 1993. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial While the amended 1977 Constitution and the proposed new 1992 constitution provide for an independent judiciary, in practice the judiciary is not independent of the executive branch and has consistently been responsive to priorities and objectives set by the President and his Government. Zaire's Civil and Criminal Codes are based on Belgian and customary law. Its legal system includes lower courts, appellate courts, the Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security. Most cases are initiated at the local level, and many disputes are adjudicated by local administrative officials or traditional authorities. Adherence to acceptable legal procedures varies in most instances. Charges of misconduct against senior government officials must be filed directly with the Supreme Court. The Constitution provides defendants with the right to a public trial and counsel. The right of appeal is provided in all cases except cases involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which are adjudicated by the Court of State Security. When a defendant is unable to afford a lawyer, the law provides for court-appointed counsel at state expense in capital cases, in all proceedings before the Supreme Court, and in other cases when requested by a court. In practice, these protections are frequently ignored. Many defendants never meet their counsel or do so only after months of detention and interrogation. Tshisekedi's transitional Government had vowed to improve Zaire's judicial system and deliver fair and impartial justice. However, it has been powerless do so since Mobutu dismissed it and installed the rival Birindwa Government early in 1993. The judicial system is hobbled by a continuing shortage of trained and motivated personnel, a scarcity of essential supplies, continued intimidation of justices, and other constraints. In particular, magistrates, like many other Zairians, suffer from inflation-ravaged wages and poor working conditions, a situation that gives rise to corruption. The magistrates were on strike for a substantial part of 1993 as a result of the Government's failure to pay them. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Security forces routinely ignored legal provisions that require a warrant before searching a home and entered and searched residences at will. The attack on UDPS party leader Kibassa Maliba's home is only one of the more blatant examples of a pattern of intimidation carried out against opposition supporters in their homes. The homes of several of the political activists who were arrested in March were searched and ransacked, as was the home of transitional Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi. Undisciplined security forces also continued to beat, rob, rape, and kill citizens in their own homes. Hundreds of such cases occurred during armed forces' looting in January. It is widely assumed that the Government monitors mail and telephone communications. g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts Zaire's continuing political crisis greatly exacerbated ethnic tensions and regional disputes, resulting in many violations of humanitarian law. In particular, government officials continued to provoke ethnic clashes in Shaba province and to expel members of certain ethnic groups from that area. Provincial Governor Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza publicly blamed Shaba's economic problems on the inhabitants originally from the neighboring provinces of eastern and western Kasai (Tshisekedi's region), many of whom have lived in Shaba for several generations. Kyungu proclaimed any Kasaians who had not left Shaba by the end of July would be killed or imprisoned. Militant members of Kyungu's Party of the Union of Independent Republicans (UFERI), which had led several violent attacks against Kasaians in 1992, reinforced these statements by leading several additional clashes in 1993, including in Kolwezi in March, which left several people dead and many houses destroyed. As a result, Kasaians continued to leave Shaba province throughout 1993. At year's end, credible sources estimated that about 600,000 people had been displaced since the conflict began in 1992. Throughout the year, tens of thousands of people waited for transportation to the Kasais at railroad stations in the Shaba towns of Kolwezi, Likasi, and Kamina, often for weeks at a time. Conditions in the makeshift railway station camps and on the trains were extremely poor, leading to cases of malnutrition, illness, and death from exposure. Deaths were recorded on every train taking Kasaians from Shaba. Many people, robbed or charged extortionate fees for transportation, arrived destitute in eastern and western Kasai. Interethnic violence in western Shaba province resulted in the reported burning alive of 25 people in Kalemie village on October 11 and the burning of 15 houses in Moba village on October 29. Human rights organizations called for an investigation to determine the perpetrators of these abuses. Ethnic strife broke out in March between residents native to North Kivu province and "Banyarwandan" residents who have immigrated to Zaire from Rwanda in several successive waves beginning in the last century. Hostilities between the rival groups in Kivu had resulted in up to 6,000 dead and 230,000 displaced between the outbreak of violence in March and the end of July, when the violence mostly subsided. Opposition leaders' allegations of central (i.e. Mobutu) Government involvement in provoking ethnic conflict in North Kivu have not been verified, although it is generally assumed that local officials, including the vice governor, were implicated. However, hostilities continued virtually unchecked for almost 4 months until the Government sent DSP troops to quell the disturbances. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides citizens the right to express their opinions freely. Although there is no prior censorship of the media, there is a requirement that newspaper publishers deposit copies of each issue prior to publication with the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. The print media are also subject to an ambiguous ordinance on "press freedom" promulgated on April 20, 1981, which fails to define "freedom of the press" and is intimidating to journalists. The Mobutu Government's control of the Zairian Radio and Television Office (OZRT), the only media organ capable of reaching audiences nationwide, and its increasing harassment and intimidation of journalists and other outspoken figures of the opposition tended to repress free expression and encourage self-censorship during the year. Twelve OZRT employees were suspended in 1993 in what was almost certainly a clampdown on excessive independence in reporting. Although numerous newpapers were published in Kinshasa in 1993, the impact of the press remained largely confined to Kinshasa as the lack of transport and other obstacles limited distribution of private newspapers to rural areas. The Mobutu Government continued to harass and intimidate the print media. It arrested journalists from the opposition- linked Le Potentiel, Le Phare, La Tempete Des Tropiques, Umoja, and the Kasai-based Les Petites Annonces De La Semaine in connection with articles they had published. All were granted conditional liberty after several weeks or months of imprisonment. In addition, the Government announced a 3-month suspension of the Kinshasa newspaper Les Palmares on August 4, apparently in connection with a special edition that was considered to have insulted President Mobutu. No law was cited in the order mandating the suspension. The authorities arrested at least one person for possession of the issue. They banned completely another newspaper, L'Interprete, and declared its possession a crime following the publication of a single, highly scatological issue. Subsequent to the October 24 "monetary reform," a Government decree threatened suspension of all periodicals that advised against acceptance of the new currency. The Birindwa Government suspended Umoja, its sister publication La Renaissance, Elima, and Salongo under this decree. All of these periodicals resumed publication within days, in defiance of the ban. As of the end of the year, those responsible for the 1992 destruction of printing equipment belonging to an opposition newspaper as well as the firebombing of a printing plant that published opposition newspapers had neither been charged nor brought to trial. Security forces also reportedly resorted to direct action against the distribution of opposition newspapers in Kinshasa and in the interior, particularly during the months of March and April, when several vendors were beaten and their newspapers confiscated. At the same time, the Government prevented six journalists selected to attend a seminar in Brazzaville from departing Zaire. The Government allowed many foreign journalists into Zaire to report on developments throughout the year. However, the local human rights group, Voice of the Voiceless, reported that several foreign journalists in possession of valid visas were either denied entry or had their visas revoked shortly after their arrival. Furthermore, the Mobutu authorities arrested two American free lance journalists, forced them to leave Shaba province, and held them under house arrest in Kinshasa for several days after they made contact with Kasaian political figures in Shaba. Free discussion is generally respected within the university, although the right to publish is restricted. Public universities were in operation from January through the end of the academic year in September, even though professors were not paid during that time. At year's end, it appeared unlikely that the universities would reopen. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The right of the people to assemble peacefully has never been firmly established in Zaire. Under previously existing law, the Government requires all organizers of public meetings to apply for a permit. Many opposition parties complained that the Mobutu Government continued to deny them permission to hold demonstrations. In July security forces forcibly repressed a UDPS party demonstration in Kinshasa, leaving between one and five persons dead (See Section 1.a.). Government troops rioted outside of the Catholic Interdiocesan Center February 26; they destroyed several vehicles parked there when several members of the High Council of the Republic, released from captivity at the People's Palace, had gathered to greet the Assembly's President Archbishop Monsengwo. Twenty-one people were arrested and several more were injured in early December when security forces broke up a series of demonstrations by the Lumumbist Palu Party. A wide range of private organizations concerned with civic and other affairs have been free to organize and conduct their affairs peacefully, without constraints being imposed upon them by the Government. However, leaders of political parties and other groups, most notably human rights organizations, are routinely subject to harassment (see Section 4). c. Freedom of Religion About 50 percent of the population is Catholic, 40 percent Protestant and Kimbanguist (a Zairian Christian church), and 5 percent Muslim. The remainder profess indigenous or other religious beliefs. There is no legally favored church or religion in Zaire, but the Constitution limits religious freedom by authorizing the Government to regulate religious sects by law. The 1971 law regulating religious organizations grants to civil servants the power to establish or dissolve religious groups. Under this law the process for becoming recognized is restrictive; however, officially recognized religions are free to establish places of worship and to train clergy. Most recognized churches have external ties, and foreign nationals are allowed to proselytize. In a remarkable decision in March, the Supreme Court overturned President Mobutu's 1986 order banning the Jehovah's Witnesses. While the Court acknowledged that the President had authority to ban the Church under the Constitution and laws in force, it held that he had not sufficiently specified the dangers to national interests that compelled him to ban the group. The Court ordered the Government to pay damages to the Church. At year's end, the Government had not paid the damages, but it had apparently ceased persecuting Witnesses. The Government does not generally interfere with foreign proselytizers. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation All citizens, refugees, and permanent residents must carry identity cards. Police and soldiers erect checkpoints on major roads to inspect papers. Passports and exit permits are available, in principle, to all citizens (often at exorbitant cost from corrupt officials), but the Government has regularly prevented individual travel by withholding such documents or by arbitrarily preventing departures. In 1993 human rights groups also reported several incidents in which the Government blocked journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights monitors from leaving Zaire. Government treatment of refugees has been generally benign and asylum has been liberally granted. (However, disputes over the citizenship rights of Rwandan immigrants or their descendants appear to be at the root of ethnic disputes in Kivu.) Most refugees in Zaire do not live in camps. Many have settled in already existing Zairian villages and towns, and Angolan refugees, especially in Bas Zaire, live in villages they have settled. Two indigenous nongovernmental organizations, the Church of Christ of Zaire and the Committee for Intervention and Assistance to Refugees, provide assistance in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which maintains an office in Kinshasa. Doctors Without Borders of Belgium serves Angolan refugees in western Shaba province. Doctors Without Borders of Holland is assisting Burundian and Rwandan refugees in the Kivu region. As of November, the UNHCR estimated there were about 465,000 refugees in Zaire, including about 200,000 Angolans, 125,000 Sudanese, and 50,000 Rwandans. In October and November, Zaire received an influx of 40,000 Burundian refugees following an attempted coup and ethnic conflict in Burundi. They are receiving UNHCR assistance. There were no known instances of forced repatriation in 1993. Some 60,000 Zairians have sought asylum in neighboring countries. Prospective returnees are dealt with individually, and there is no evidence of discrimination against them. The continual and worsening economic, political, and social crises stimulated increasing numbers of asylum requests at Western embassies in Kinshasa and abroad. Most of these Zairians seeking asylum have been interviewed by UNHCR and have been found to be economic rather than political refugees. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The Mobutu regime has never permitted Zairian citizens to exercise their right to change their government. In 1993 President Mobutu maintained de facto authority over government operations through his control of key units of the military and the administration, including the central bank, and by co-opting as Prime Minister one of the well-known opposition members. He effectively blocked the 2-year program of transition to democracy adopted by the Sovereign National Conference in 1992 in a series of moves: In January he barred Tskisekedi's cabinet members from their offices and named senior civil servants as an interim government; in February he prevented the functioning of the High Council of the Republic (HCR), the highest authority established by the National Conference, by having his security forces surround the Peoples' Palace (the High Council's seat), and virtually holding hostage the HCR members for over 48 hours; in March he announced the formation of a new government, headed by Prime Minister Faustin Birindwa, a member of UDPS, and reconvened the old National Assembly, which was elected under the previous one-party system and whose electoral mandate had expired. Nevertheless, in the face of the President's moves, the Tshisekedi Government refused to step down, protesting that only the HCR had the authority to dismiss the transitional Government, and throughout the year continued to have backing from most of the democratic opposition (known as the Holy Union) and diplomatic support from the international donor community. Several attempts to negotiate a compromise failed to end the impasse. In March HCR President Monsengwo called for a "conclave" to discuss potential resolutions, but he and the opposition leaders subsequently decided to boycott the conclave, objecting to the lack of security guarantees. The conclave, dominated by Mobutu supporters, then selected Faustin Birindwa as Prime Minister. Negotiations between representatives of the conclave and the Holy Union began again on September 10, resulting in a draft agreement on the institutional framework of the transition. The accord remains unsigned, and on December 3, the Holy Union announced a unilateral rupture of its participation in the talks. There is no official discrimination against the participation of women or minorities in politics. However, the rival Tshisekedi and Birindwa Governments each include only 1 woman in their 32-member Cabinets, and the indigenous Pygmies living in remote areas take little part in the political process. The Pygmies did not participate in the National Conference, but their interests were represented and their plight was debated in plenary sessions. The Conference voted that all Pygmies should be considered Zairian citizens with full citizenship. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Several nongovernmental Zairian human rights organizations have been active in the country since 1990. These include the Zairian League of Human Rights (LIZADHO), the Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), the Zairian Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO), the Zairian Elector's League, the Amos Group, and the Zairian Prison Fellowship. All have reported and documented human rights abuses and issued reports on the Government's attitude regarding its responsibility to protect these rights and to meet the basic human needs of the population. Justice Ministry officials threatened AZADHO with closure in September on the grounds that some of its branch offices were not formally registered; for its part AZADHO notes that the organization's applications for legal standing have met with unexplained delays. Representatives of LIZADHO and the Voice of the Voiceless, among others deemed politically sensitive, were prevented from leaving Zaire in the first half of the year. After several rebuffs, U.N. envoy Darko Silovic finally received permission August 22 to lead a 2-week mission to assess the need for humanitarian assistance. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women Both the Constitution of the Second Republic and that drafted by the National Conference forbid discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, or religious affiliation. Despite these constitutional provisions, women are in practice relegated to a secondary role in Zaire's traditional society. They are the primary farm laborers and small traders and are exclusively responsible for childrearing. In the nontraditional sector, women commonly receive less pay for equal work. Women in Zaire tend to receive less education than men; a recent U.N. study indicates that females in Zaire receive only one-third of the schooling given males. Although women are represented in the professions and the civil service, only rarely do women occupy positions that permit them to exercise authority over male professionals. Few have attained positions of high responsibilty. Women are required by law to obtain their spouse's permission before engaging in routine legal transactions, such as selling or renting real estate, opening a bank account, accepting employment, or applying for a passport. A 1987 revision of the Family Code permits a widow to inherit her husband's property, to control her own property, and to receive a property settlement in the event of divorce. The Government did not address the issues of discrimination and domestic violence against women in 1993. The question of domestic violence has generally been ignored by the press and human rights groups despite acknowledgment that it occurs and may indeed be common. Children The sharp decline in public spending--the Government has not even published a budget for several years--has had a significant impact on programs addressing children's welfare. Most schools, for example, only function in areas where parents have formed cooperatives to pay teacher salaries. There are no documented cases in which security forces or others target children for specific abuse, although children suffer from the same conditions of generalized social disorder and widespread disregard for human rights that affect society as a whole. Female genital mutilation (circumcision) is not widespread in Zaire, but it is practiced on young females among isolated groups in northern Zaire. Indigenous People Discrimination against Zaire's Pygmy population, estimated at between 6,000 and 10,000, continues. There were conflicts over land between the nomadic Pygmies and the agrarian populations in the Kivu provinces, and such clashes may have resulted in some deaths in 1993. The 1992 National Conference proposed a census of the diminishing Pygmy population, with a view toward the eventual establishment of territorial reserves. No further action was taken on this measure in 1993, as the political impasse blocked most National Conference initiatives. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Zaire's population of about 40 million includes over 200 separate ethnic groups. Four indigenous languages have national status. French is the language of government, commerce, and education. Political offices have generally been proportionally allocated among the various ethnic groups, but members of President Mobutu's Ngbandi ethnic group are disproportionately represented at the highest levels of the security and intelligence services. Ngbandi predominate at all levels within the Special Presidential Division, the best equipped and trained unit of the armed forces. People with Disabilities The Government has not mandated any law or expenditures to improve access for the disabled and has not passed legislation specifically forbidding discrimination against disabled persons. A network of privately and publicly funded specialty schools provide education and vocational training to blind and physically disabled students. These schools, however, suffer from the same critical funding shortfalls that have devastated the educational system as a whole. Continued economic decline and a consequent dearth of investment in roads, sidewalks, public buildings, and transportation has rendered public facilities increasingly inaccessible to everyone, regardless of disability. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The right of workers to form and join trade unions is provided for in the Constitution and in legislation, but there are two exceptions. Magistrates and other employees of the judicial system are governed by a statute which stipulates that they may not create their own union. In addition, all military personnel (including gendarmes or the national police) are subject to a statute which states that they, too, cannot establish a union. Before April 1990, all trade unions were required by statute to affiliate with the National Union of Zairian Workers (UNTZA), the single legally recognized labor confederation which was an integral part of the only political party then allowed, President Mobutu's the Popular Movement for the Revolution (MPR). After April 24, 1990, when political pluralism was permitted, the UNTZA disaffiliated itself from the MPR and reorganized under new leadership chosen through elections deemed fair by outside observers. Other independent labor unions and nascent confederations emerged in the ensuing months, most of which organized along occupational or party lines. Some of these have antecedents which existed in the early years of Zaire's independence. Between 80 to 85 such organizations are now officially registered with the Labor Ministry, although many exist only on paper. Among some of the more prominent union centrals are UNTZA, considered relatively independent of the MPR since its latest internal elections; Organization of United Zairian Workers (OTUZ), which is directed by the former pro-MPR leaders of UNTZA; the Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT), which includes the two major public employees unions and is associated with the opposition UDPS party; and the pro-PDSC (Social Democrat) Union Central of Zaire (CZA). The rapid contraction of the Zairian economy in the last 3 years has decimated the formal (wage earning) sector of the economy. According to one estimate, only 1 million of Zaire's 40 million population held wage-paying jobs at the end of 1992; the figure was probably lower at the end of 1993. Although there are no reliable statistics, it is probably safe to assume that most of the rest of the population, with the exception of the very young or the very old, is engaged in productive but nonwage earning activity. Most of these nonwage workers are employed in subsistence agriculture; in urban areas, many are employed in small-scale retailing, services, or workshops. UNTZA, still the largest labor confederation in terms of membership, claims about 300,000 members. Traditionally, the bulk of unionized jobs have been clustered in urban or mineral-producing areas and are concentrated in key economic sectors such as ports and transportation, mining, large-scale manufacturing, and the public sector. These sectors, and their corresponding unions, have been among the hardest hit in the ongoing economic contraction. The right to strike is recognized in Zairian law; however, "legal" strikes rarely occur since the law requires prior resort to lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures. Labor unions have not effectively defended the rights of workers in the deteriorating economic environment. The wildcat strikes against the Matadi Port and the quasi-legal strike against the Onatra Transportation Company ended with negotiated wage increases; a legal strike against the Zaire SEP Petroleum Products Distribution Company, however, ended with the firing of several workers. Public employees, most of whom were unpaid for a period ranging from 9 to 12 months, were on strike legally for most of the year. The Vice President of the Dinafet Public Employees Union was arrested and held for 2 months on charges of "inciting revolt" after he called on public employees to demonstrate to protest the nonpayment of their salaries. UNTZA participates actively in the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, and the Confederation of Zairian Syndicates (CSZ) is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor (WLC). Several other confederations have expressed an interest in an affiliation with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The Konrad Adenaur and Fredrich Ebert Foundations administer trade union programs. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Legislation provides for the right to bargain collectively, and an agreement between the UNTZA and the Employers Association (ANEZA) provided for wages and prices to be negotiated jointly each year under minimal government supervision. This system, which functioned until 1991, broke down as a result of the rapid depreciation of Zaire's national currency and has not been replaced by an alternative system. Continuing hyperinflation has encouraged a return to pay rates individually arranged between employers and employees; collective bargaining still exists, at most, on the level of the individual enterprise. Economic deterioration has also resulted in a decline in the influence of unions, a tendency to ignore existing labor regulations, and a buyer's market for labor. The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination, although this regulation is not strongly enforced. The Government has not yet promulgated modifications to the Labor Code that would strengthen provisions safeguarding the right to form unions and to bargain collectively. In the public sector, wages are established by decree, with public sector unions acting only in an informal advisory capacity. There are no export processing zones in Zaire. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Forced labor is prohibited by law in Zaire and is not practiced. However, the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) in 1993 continued to express concern about Zairian laws dating to 1971 and 1976 requiring able-bodied citizens not otherwise employed to perform agricultural and development work as determined by the Government and providing for imprisonment with compulsory labor for persons determined to be delinquent on tax payments. These laws have not been enforced in recent years. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The legal minimum age for employment is 18 years. Minors 14 years and older may be employed legally with the consent of a parent or guardian. Employment of children of all ages is common in the informal economic sector and in subsistence agriculture. Neither the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for enforcement, nor the labor unions make an effort to enforce child labor laws. Larger enterprises do not commonly exploit child labor. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work Most Zairians are engaged in subsistence agriculture or commerce outside the formal wage sector. The minimum wage, last adjusted by government decree in 1990, became totally irrelevant as high inflation continued throughout 1993. Most workers relied on the extended family and informal economic activity to survive. The maximum legal workweek (excluding voluntary overtime) is 48 hours. One 24-hour rest period is required every 7 days. The Labor Code specifies health and safety standards. The Ministry of Labor is officially charged with enforcement of these standards. However, in 1993 the COE expressed concern about the inadequacy of reporting during the previous 3 years, blaming this unsatisfactory performance on the dearth of human and material resources provided to the Ministry. There are no provisions in the Labor Code permitting workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without penalty.
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