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TITLE: ZAIRE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 ZAIRE President Mobutu Sese Seko has dominated an authoritarian governmental system since seizing power in a 1965 military coup. Under the pressure of economic crisis and domestic unrest, Mobutu in 1990 announced a "transition to democracy." Four years later, it remains far from complete. A National Conference (CNS) investigated official wrongdoing, drafted a new Constitution, and selected Etienne Tshisekedi Wa Mulumba, Mobutu's most implacable political foe, as Prime Minister. Denouncing the authority and decisions of the CNS, Mobutu dismissed Tshisekedi in 1993 and appointed a defector from Tshisekedi's own Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) Party, Faustin Birindwa, as Prime Minister. Refusing to recognize Mobutu's authority to remove him, Tshisekedi presided over a parallel set of governmental institutions until June, while most of the basic functions of government came to a halt. In mid-1994 Mobutu's political allies and opposition leaders finally negotiated an end to the political impasse and established a transition Parliament (the HCR-PT) which elected the opposition Union of Independent Democrats's Kengo Wa Dondo as transition Prime Minister. Under the agreement, ministerial positions are divided equally between Mobutu supporters and the opposition. The UDPS and some smaller opposition groups continue to insist on Tshisekedi's legitimacy and refuse to accept Kengo's election or the portfolios reserved for them. President Mobutu generally retained control of his carefully built overlapping security forces, a crucial factor in the transitional process. The President's brother-in-law, General Baramoto Kpama Kpata, heads the Civil Guard, while Mobutu's ethnic kinsman General Nzimbi Ngbale heads the Special Presidential Division (DSP). The regular armed forces, which include the Gendarmerie, are poorly trained, poorly disciplined, and not effective as an internal or external security service. Moreover, members of the security forces, unpaid for months on end, frequently prey on civilians. There was one instance of large-scale armed forces pillaging, in the town of Mbanza-Ngungu. Members of the armed forces have also been implicated in numerous cases of small-scale armed robbery, extortion, and pillage. The economy is based on subsistence agriculture, with little of the hard currency revenue traditionally generated by the mining and minerals industry, itself now crippled by deteriorating infrastructure and lack of new investment. Diamond exports-- much of them from outside regulated channels--are now the mainstay of the country's hard currency revenues. As the economy contracted, public employees went unpaid for months at a time, and corruption, blackmail, extortion, and embezzlement became endemic. At year's end, the Kengo Government was still struggling to wrest control of the Central Bank from Mobutu, and to halt an influx of illegally printed currency that pushed the annual inflation rate to 7,800 percent. Zaire has had no government budget since 1992. Both the security forces and the military continued to commit widespread abuses, including extrajudicial killings and infringement upon individual rights in the continuing disintegration of state authority. The security forces continued to threaten, torture, and illegally detain officials and others. Some political demonstrations proceeded unhindered, but police disrupted others with threats, arrests, beatings, and detentions. The present Government jailed and prosecuted only a few soldiers and no officials for human rights abuses. Provincial officials continued to incite ethnic strife leading to massive displacement and deaths in Shaba, although on a smaller scale than the unprecedented violence in 1993. The central Government tolerated it until August, when the Prime Minister traveled to the area and publicly reprimanded the Shaba governor. The military and vigilantes frequently committed acts of violence, usually with impunity. Prison conditions, already life-threatening, deteriorated further, although the Government did release sick prisoners. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing The undisciplined security forces committed numerous extrajudicial killings; in some cases these were linked to personal rivalries. With only token wages--often none--for months at a time, many soldiers and gendarmes resorted to robbery and extortion, sometimes killing their victims or bystanders. Human rights observers, the press and eyewitnesses reported several dozen such fatal altercations, many committed by uniformed personnel. It is highly likely that additional incidents went unreported, especially in Zaire's remote interior. In January security forces shot and killed a Kinshasa currency vendor, and a soldier beat a taxi driver to death; the soldier was tried and imprisoned. In October a military tribunal sentenced a warrant officer and several enlisted troops to jail for killing a Goma businessman. However, the Government neither investigated nor punished the perpetrators in most cases, hindering efforts to determine the number of killings and the extent of the security forces' involvement. In several cases, poorly trained soldiers put down disturbances using lethal force. In April elite security forces put down armed mutiny in Mbanza-Ngungu and reportedly killed suspected looters. Human rights monitors reported that a series of confrontations between security forces and local residents left at least two civilians, a gendarme, and a soldier dead in Bukavu during several days of intermittent rioting in January. The disturbances began when gendarmes investigating a looting entered a home and wounded a resident; a crowd of civilians then beat one of the gendarmes to death. Over the next several days, security forces and others looted homes and businesses, wounded more people, and killed a security guard. Two days after the original altercation, a Civil Guard killed a vendor, and civilian bystanders in turn killed him. Credible eyewitnesses have refuted earlier reports that security forces killed three bystanders in June when authorities arrested opposition leader Lambert Mende at a rally in Mbuji Mayi. There were no known cases in which security forces deliberately targeted political opponents or others for summary execution. In a killing that may have had political overtones, journalist Pierre Kabeya of Kin Matin was reportedly abducted, then shot to death in June. However, the motives and the perpetrators of the killing remain unknown. In a November case that remains unresolved, journalist Adolphe Kavula of the newspaper Nsemo was found semiconscious, several days after he disappeared from his Kinshasa home and died shortly after. The Kengo Government investigation found no evidence of foul play, but several human rights monitors believe security forces abducted, then fatally wounded Mr. Kavula. b. Disappearance There were several reports of disappearances; however, given the administrative breakdown throughout the country, some of these incidents may be cases of criminal kidnaping rather than politically motivated disappearances. Although security forces frequently hold detainees incommunicado or in secret jails, they typically do not attempt to conceal the fact of detention (see Section 1.d.). There were scattered reports of abductions in which unidentified assailants detained, threatened, and sometimes beat journalists or opposition politicians before releasing them. In one such abduction, apparently linked to the Union of Independent Republicans (UFERI) Party's campaign of ethnic intimidation in Shaba province, assailants believed to be members of the UFERI Youth Wing (JUFERI) demanded that a public administrator give up his job in favor of a native of Shaba. In most abduction cases, a political motive is not apparent. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Although the law forbids torture, security forces regularly ignore this prohibition. The use of torture is widespread, and the authorities, including the judiciary, rarely investigate claims of torture. Security personnel frequently beat prisoners in the process of arresting or interrogating them. There were numerous reports that prisoners, including political opponents of the Mobutu regime, were struck, burned, or suspended upside down for long periods of time. The press and human rights groups reported that undisciplined and often unpaid security forces routinely resorted to robbery, carjacking, extortion, and random acts of violence against ordinary citizens. Numerous reports from human rights monitors and the press describe cases in which criminals believed to belong to the security forces beat, raped, or threatened their victims before stealing from them. Top military officials have informed their troops that they will prosecute such abuses in military courts; in some cases, they did so. For example, officials discharged 30 soldiers, tried them as civilians, and jailed them for their participation in the looting of Mbanza-Ngungu in April (see Section 1.a.); military courts convicted 3 of a 1993 pillage of a private residence in Kinshasa, and convicted 2 others of the abduction, rape, and beating of a civilian couple. Many more such cases, however, are neither investigated nor punished. Prime Minister Kengo failed to implement his promise to disarm all security force members whose jobs did not require weapons for their current duties. Conditions in most of Zaire's 220 prisons and places of detention remain life-threatening. Human rights groups recorded two deaths from malnutrition in Kinshasa's Makala central prison in May, and six deaths in the Kananga prison in May and June. During the first half of the year, the central Government all but ceased to provide prisons with operating funds; consequently, virtually the only food and medical care was that provided sporadically by relatives and private charities. Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are rampant. Inmates in Makala sleep on the floor and have no access to sanitation, potable water, or adequate health care. Numerous reports on prisons in the interior suggest these conditions are both typical and widespread. Prime Minister Kengo's Justice Ministry publicly deplored prison conditions and appealed for international assistance but has made no concrete improvements. However, in August Justice Minister Kamanda released 48 ill and malnourished prisoners. Abuse of prisoners is common. In November, at the end of a fact-finding tour, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Roberto Garreton emphasized the problem of prison conditions, noting he had witnessed evidence of abuse, including torture. The Zairian Prison Fellowship, religious organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report that they have regular access to prisons nationwide. In some cases, however, the Government's unpublicized creation of new unofficial detention sites circumvents their access. Measures taken to separate men, women, and juvenile prisoners are often inadequate. Authorities have not targeted women for abuse, although rape sometimes occurs. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Under Zairian law, serious offenses, punishable by more than 6-months imprisonment, do not require a warrant 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 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 Government uses arbitrary arrests to intimidate political opponents. Political arrests increased during periods of heightened opposition activism, either in connection with general strikes, demonstrations, or the politicized atmosphere surrounding the June 14 election of Prime Minister Kengo. Authorities rarely file charges, obscuring the precise motive for political arrests. Typically, police detain such prisoners for several days or weeks, then grant provisional liberty without arraignment. Political prisoners and others are often detained incommunicado, with irregular or no access to legal counsel. Human rights monitors report cases in which corrupt local officials use detention as a means of extortion, arresting people on fabricated charges, only releasing them after a payment of a "fine." Human rights monitors estimate that police detained and questioned a half-dozen people about opposition-sponsored general strikes. For example, police arrested two opposition leaders after general strikes, Pierre Mankwamya in January and Olenga Nkoy in May. They detained both for several weeks, questioned them about the organization of the strikes, and released them without formal hearings. In another case with political overtones, authorities arrested UDPS leader Leon Kadima Muntutu on July 5, questioned him about illegal currency exchanges, then released him over 2 months later without charge. It is difficult to estimate the number of political detainees due to detention in clandestine and remote locations and military facilities. In mid-August, the Kengo Government reported that virtually all prisoners were detained "for cause," and that none was being held for purely political reasons. Security forces detained opposition leaders, sometimes very briefly, in an apparent effort to halt or head off political demonstrations. Security forces arrested up to 80 people when they broke up a January demonstration by the Lumumbist Palu Party. They released most detainees within hours, but held eight Palu leaders for several days. Police detained Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the opposition Holy Union, for several hours when he tried to address a rally in Mbuji Mayi in June; on August 16, police detained three opposition labor leaders, Enos Bavela, Benjamin Mukulungu, and Kibaswa Kwabene, for most of the day when they attempted to organize a demonstration in Kinshasa. In an incident that still remains unexplained, police detained former Prime Minister and chief of the radical opposition Etienne Tshisekedi on June 12 when he went on or near a military base. They released Tshisekedi himself hours later without charge but kept three bodyguards and a driver who were arrested with him in custody for 2 months without charge. Seventy percent of the inmates of Makala prison were officially awaiting trial. Human rights and religious organizations suggest the problem is at least this severe elsewhere, with as many as 80 percent of inmates awaiting trial in some prisons in the interior. The Transition Act of 1994 specifically forbids exile, and there were no known cases. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Despite constitutional provisions, the judiciary is not independent of the executive branch, and the executive branch often manipulates it. Zaire's civil and criminal codes are based on Belgian and customary law. The legal system includes lower courts, appellate courts, the Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security. Adherence to acceptable legal procedures varies considerably. Charges of misconduct against senior government officials must be filed directly with the Supreme Court. Corruption is pervasive, particularly among magistrates who are poorly paid and poorly trained. The judicial system is further hobbled by shortages of personnel, essential supplies, and intimidation of justices. There is a system of separate military tribunals with an appeals structure that parallels that of civilian courts. Decisions from the military tribunals may be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Transition Act provides for the right to a speedy public trial, the presumption of innocence, and legal counsel at all stages of proceedings. Defendants have the right to appeal in all cases except those involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which are adjudicated by the Court of State Security. 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, the authorities frequently ignore these protections. Many defendants never meet their counsel or do so only after months of detention and interrogation. The judiciary ceased to function for several months when judicial workers struck to protest the nonpayment of public employees. Most cases are heard only when defendant and plaintiff pay all court costs, including salaries, a situation which encourages corruption. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence Security forces routinely ignore the Constitution's provision for the inviolability of the home and of private correspondence. They ignore the requirement for a search warrant, entering and searching homes at will. Under the pretext of searching for arms, troops entered and looted the home of a leader of the radical opposition in Kinshasa; troops also looted the home of an urban commissar in Kolwezi. Human rights monitors and the press report numerous other instances in which gangs believed to be security forces entered and looted private homes, sometimes abusing or threatening the residents. In many of these cases, simple robbery, rather than political intimidation, appeared to be the motive. Citizens widely assume that the Government monitors mail and telephone communications. g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts Regional government officials continued to provoke ethnic clashes in Shaba province and to expel inhabitants originally from the neighboring provinces of Eastern and Western Kasai, many of whom have lived in Shaba for several generations. Throughout most of the year, provincial Governor Gabriel Kyungu Wa Kumwanza continued to publicly blame Shaba's economic problems on the Kasaians. On several occasions, militant members of Kyungu's UFERI party blocked entry to Kasaian Lubas at their places of employment, blocked Kasaian farmers from working in their fields, and in general impeded passage of non-Shabans. These attacks began to decline in mid-1994, especially after Prime Minister Kengo's August visit to Shaba, when he publicly reprimanded Kyungu for persecuting the Kasaians. As a result of intimidation and the violent clashes of previous years, Kasaians continued to leave Shaba province. Most of them are thought to have returned to impoverished farming communities in Eastern Kasai, although many remain crowded into certain towns in northern Shaba, where they depend on international assistance for survival. Other political rivalries touched off sporadic incidents of violence. In July a group of UDPS supporters, who are frequently found in the street in front of opposition leader Tshisekedi's residence, seized three uniformed soldiers and beat them severely. Subsequently, a larger group of soldiers arrived and beat several UDPS supporters and bystanders in retaliation. During the ensuing melee, shots were fired, several people were hurt, Tshisekedi's home was damaged and some of his possessions looted. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution and the Transition Act provide for the right to express opinion, but the Government restricts this right. In practice, the press and public discussion are freer than before President Mobutu ended the one-party state. During the latter half of the year, for example, opposition leaders have significantly increased their presence on the airwaves. Nonetheless, sporadic local attempts at control and intimidation frequently occur. Newspaper publishers are required to deposit copies of each issue with the Ministry of Information prior to publication. An ambiguous ordinance on "press freedom" which fails to define "freedom of the press" also serves to promote self-censorship and intimidate journalists, as does outright intimidation and violence. For example, security forces abducted, threatened, beat, and detained journalists before releasing them (see Section 2.b.). Human rights monitors reported cases of outright intimidation. Security forces searched and ransacked the Kinshasa offices of L'Analyst, forcing employees to vacate the premises. They also jailed a journalist for Le Point du Zaire for denouncing the embezzlement of humanitarian assistance by President Mobutu's Popular Movement for the Revolution (MPR) Party chairman. Several other journalists and editors in the print media claimed security forces threatened them, subjected them to obvious surveillance, or summoned them for interrogation. The editor of L'Essor Africain went into hiding when he received such a summons. The editor of La Reference Plus obeyed his summons; security forces subsequently questioned him for several hours. In May a court sentenced a printer to 4 months' imprisonment for distribution of leaflets calling for a general strike. In January Shaba provincial governor Kyungu suspended the Lubumbashi newspaper Mukuba for an article deemed "seditious," and he also suspended Taifa editor Crispin Luamba for "being a nonnative." One month later, the Government fined Le Soft for its article on the Information Minister's embezzlement of funds. In an ongoing case, the Government ordered Solidarite to divulge its sources for an article threatening the pillage of local churches. On occasion, the Government or security forces interfered with the distribution of newspapers. In April elements of the Military Action and Research Service seized and burned newspapers sold by small vendors in Kinshasa. The governor of Maniema ordered a man arrested and detained for a month for bringing "opposition" newspapers from Kinshasa into the province. The Kengo Government allowed many foreign journalists to report throughout the year. However, in March the Birindwa government investigated and expelled a Belgian documentary cinema producer. Although numerous newspapers are published in Kinshasa, their impact largely remains confined to the capital and a few major cities. Only the government-controlled radio and, to a much lesser extent, television, reach mass audiences. The Zairian Radio and Television Office fired 9 of the 12 reporters in the broadcast media whom it had suspended the previous year, apparently for excessive independence in reporting. The Government generally respects discussion within the university community but restricts the right to publish. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The right of the people to assemble peacefully has never been firmly established. The Government requires all organizers of public meetings to apply for a permit. In February the governor of Kinshasa issued an additional decree arbitrarily forbidding all political demonstrations while the Parliament is in session; the decree still stands. Security forces repressed several political demonstrations, some of them violently. In January they broke up a demonstration by the Lumumbist party Palu, beating the participants and arresting several dozen persons. They released many of the participants within hours but detained eight for several days. They also disrupted two other Palu demonstrations, in January and in May, in similar fashion. At times, the Government tried to prevent demonstrations by denying permission or arresting the groups' leaders. The Government denied permission to the pro-Tshisekedi UDPS to demonstrate in February and in May. A human rights monitor reported that security forces arrested a UDPS supporter when he tried to organize a demonstration. In August security forces arrested three leaders of the UDPS-oriented CDT Union Confederation who were attempting to lead a small demonstration of public functionaries. The security forces detained the union leaders for several hours, until the Justice Ministry ordered their release. The UDPS did, however, hold a major rally in June without incident, in sharp contrast to a rally that the Government violently repressed in 1993. c. Freedom of Religion There is no legally favored church or religion, but the Transition Act and the Constitution previously in effect limit religious freedom by authorizing the Government to regulate religious sects. The 1971 law regulating religious organizations grants civil servants the power to establish or dissolve religious groups. This law restricted the process for official recognition; 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. The Government generally does not interfere with foreign missionaries. There has been no further known persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses. However, the Supreme Court in 1993 ordered the Kengo Government to pay damages to the church because the Mobutu government had banned it in 1986 as a danger to the national interest. The Government has reportedly not yet paid these damages. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The Government restricts freedom of movement. All citizens, refugees and permanent residents must carry identity cards. Police and soldiers erect checkpoints on major roads to inspect papers. Security forces frequently use such inspections to extort money from travelers at airports, ferry ports and roadblocks. In July a decree by Prime Minister Kengo banned such roadblocks. Subsequent reporting indicates that, while there have been sporadic improvements in some areas, many roadblocks remain, particularly in remote areas of the interior. Passports and exit permits are available, in principle, to all citizens, often at exorbitant cost from corrupt officials. There continue to be sporadic cases in which security forces harass human rights monitors and opposition politicians who attempt to leave the country. In some of these cases security forces confiscated travel documents or other papers, forcing people to delay their travel. Zaire was the destination of one of the largest refugee movements in history, when over 1 million Rwandans poured into the eastern border towns of Goma and Bukavu in a 5-day period. The influx quickly overwhelmed the Government's material and administrative resources and created security concerns of alarming proportions. Undisciplined Zairian security forces robbed and extorted goods from refugees and relief agencies. Further complicating the security situation, the ranks of the refugees included an estimated 33,000 retreating Rwandan troops and an unknown number of militiamen. While the armed forces confiscated many weapons at the border crossing, weapons were smuggled through checkpoints and across remote border areas, contributing to insecurity in the camps. At year's end, former Rwandan military and government officials still controlled most of the refugee camps. They intimidated both the refugees who wished to return home and relief workers. Citing concerns for their security and that of the refugees, numerous relief organizations threatened to halt operations in the camps, unless an international security force was established there. By year's end, at least one, Medecins Sans Frontieres/France, had shut down operations in the camps for security reasons. The Zairian Government has sought assistance from the international community in providing security for the camps. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 1.1 million Rwandan refugees remain in Zaire. Early in 1994, only 40,000 Burundian refugees remained of some 90,000 who had fled 1993 fighting, but continued instability in Burundi caused additional Burundians to enter, increasing the Burundian population to 125,000. Many of the newly arrived Burundian refugees live in camps, and virtually all depend on assistance from international agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). Zaire also hosts stable refugee populations of Angolans, Sudanese, Ugandans, and others. In November, in an action protested by the UNHCR, Zaire forcibly repatriated 37 Rwandan refugees who were accused of committing crimes in Zaire. Some 90,000 Zairians have sought asylum in neighboring countries. The Government deals with prospective returnees individually, and there is no evidence of discrimination. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The Transition Act mandates the rights of citizens to change their government, but the Mobutu regime continues to deny this right. The 4-year program for transition to democracy remained stalled through much of the year. In 1993 President Mobutu installed Prime Minister Faustin Birindwa--in defiance of constitutionally mandated procedures. The Birindwa Government continued to exercise power through the first half of the year. The Tshisekedi Government, which had held power previously, refused to step down. In 1994, seeking to end the political impasse, Mobutu and opposition leaders negotiated a Transition Act, which led to the election of opposition leader Kengo Wa Dondo as Prime Minister on June 14. Since then, Kengo's Government announced its intention to propose legislation establishing election procedures, and otherwise prepare the legal and administrative basis for holding free and fair elections by mid-1995, as mandated by the Transition Act. The Kengo Government introduced in December legislation to establish an electoral commission. However, since President Mobutu continues to maintain authority over many government operations through his control of key units of the military and the administration, including the Central Bank, and the Tshisekedi opposition remains intransigent, the outlook for legitimate 1995 elections remains highly uncertain. There is no official discrimination against the participation of women or minorities in politics. However, there are only 2 women in the Cabinet, and only about 30 women in the 748-member transition Parliament. Although citizens, Pygmies living in remote areas take no part in the political process. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights A number of nongovernmental Zairian human rights organizations, including the Zairian League of Human Rights, the Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), the Zairian Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO), and the Zairian Prison Fellowship 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. Although human rights organizations generally were able to work unhindered, there were several episodes of harassment. They also encountered delays in registration, unlike the treatment provided other organizations which do not focus primarily on human rights abuses. Security forces confiscated AZADHO publications when that organization's president attempted to travel to the United States in January. After delaying his travel a week, the AZADHO president left Zaire without further incident. In the province of Haut Zaire, local authorities forbade a VSV representative from holding a human rights seminar without the express permission of the provincial governor. When no permission was forthcoming, the representative held the meeting anyway, without incident. However, authorities jailed another VSV representative working in Haut Zaire for several hours when he inquired about several prisoners. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Both the Constitution and the Transition Act forbid discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, or religious affiliation. Nonetheless, the Government continues to discriminate in some areas, and legal and societal discrimination continues as well. Women Despite constitutional provisions, in practice women are relegated to a secondary role in society. They are the primary farm laborers and small traders and are exclusively responsible for child rearing. In the nontraditional sector, women commonly receive less pay for comparable work. Women tend to receive less education than men. Although women work in the professions and the civil service, only rarely do they occupy positions that permit them to exercise authority over male professionals. Few have attained positions of high responsibility. 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. However, in cases where the inheritance is contested, little effective intervention is likely from the dysfunctional judiciary. The press and human rights groups generally ignore the question of domestic violence, despite its common occurrence. Children Government spending on children's programs is nearly nonexistent. Most schools, for example, only function in areas where parents have formed cooperatives to pay teachers' 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 is not widespread, but is practiced on young girls among isolated groups in the North. Indigenous People Societal discrimination continues against Zaire's Pygmy population of 6,000 to 10,000. There were no known reports of conflicts between Pygmies and agrarian populations in 1994. 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. People with Disabilities The law does not mandate accessibility to buildings and government services for the disabled. Special schools, many with missionary staff, use private funds and limited public support to provide education and vocational training to blind and physically disabled students. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The Constitution and legislation provide for the right to form and join trade unions to all workers except magistrates and military personnel (including the gendarmes and national police). Before 1990 the law required all trade unions to affiliate with the National Union of Zairian Workers (UNTZA), the single legally recognized labor confederation which was an integral part of the only legal political party, the MPR. When political pluralism was permitted in April 1990, the UNTZA disaffiliated itself from the MPR and reorganized under new leadership chosen through elections deemed fair by outside observers. Although UNTZA remains the largest union, almost 100 other independent labor unions and centrals are now registered with the Labor Ministry, some of them affiliated with political parties or associated with a single industry or geographic area. The law recognized the right to strike; 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. Most public sector employees, including judicial sector workers, struck sporadically throughout the year to protest nonpayment of salaries. Three day-long politically directed general strikes, on January 19, May 27, and July 8, halted most activity in Kinshasa and in some provincial capitals. Although the general strikes demonstrated the power of the opposition, they did not have a significant impact on worker issues. Unions may affiliate with international bodies. UNTZA participates actively in the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, and the Union Central of Zaire is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The law provides for the right to bargain collectively, and an agreement between the UNTZA and the Employers Association 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 the currency. 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. The collapse of the formal economy 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. In the public sector, the Government sets wages by decree; public sector unions act only in an informal advisory capacity. There are no export processing zones in Zaire. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not practiced. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The legal minimum age for employment is 18 years. Employers may legally hire minors 14 and older with the consent of a parent or guardian, but those under 16 may work a maximum of 4 hours per day; youth between 16 and 18 may work up to 8 hours. Although the law bars minors under 18 from a wide variety of jobs deemed dangerous or unhealthy, authorities do not generally enforce these regulations. 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, continued to be irrelevant due to rapid inflation. 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, the International Labor Organization Committee of Experts again expressed concern about the inadequacy of reporting during previous 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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