PIDP: ILC member in DRC protect land defender from criminalisation
Land rights defender, Mr Mwarabu Mbula Jean Koko, is in good health after spending a hell of time in the hands of the Congolese armed forces in March 2017. While Mr Mwarabu was mediating the conflict between two communities in Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he was arbitrarily arrested, jailed and tortured. During this painful moment, a strategy coordinated by the Integrated Program for the Development of the Pygmy People (PIDP) in Kivu, supported by ILC, fought against his criminalisation, denounced his unfair treatment and brought him medical help. Protecting the civil and political rights of human rights defenders working on land issues is one of the ten commitments of ILC.
"My health is getting better and better," said Mwarabu a few weeks after his release from jail at an assembly of the Community for the future of the Kisimbosa Chamakasa forest concession held in Kilali in August 2017. Although he received death threats and suffered physical aggression, Mr Mwarabu did not back down. During this exchange, he confirmed his commitment and determination to defend the rights of access of the oppressed and to secure their land rights.
The story begins when Mr Mwarabu mediates the land dispute between the indigenous Babuluko Pygmies of Kilali and their Bantu neighbours of Idambo in the locality of Bananingi in the Walikale Territory located in North Kivu in eastern DRC. Conflicts between Pygmies and Bantus are not new in the region. In Tanganyika in south-eastern DRC, these ethnic conflicts caused the deaths of around 150 people between 2016 and 2017.
During the conciliation process, the Bantus did not feel comfortable with the traditional customary land governance organisation established through the community forestry process. Frustrated by the events, they began sending death threats to Mr Mwarabu. Between February 27, 28 and 29, 2017, Mr Mwarabu received several threats through text messages.
In addition to the intimations, the Bantus engaged the Congolese military in lieu of a competent land court in Itebero. On February 30 2017, the armed forces and other unidentified persons arbitrarily arrested Mr Mwarabu at his home. In the hands of the armed forces, Mr Mwarabu suffered physical violence.
PIDP document that he received several strokes and injuries between March 2nd and 4th 2017. With the support from ILC, PIDP advocated for his release from detention and then brought him medical aid. Today, Mr Mwarabu is free, healthy and continues his work of environmental activism.
Mr Mwarabu is an indigenous Babuluko pygmy leader engaged in defending the land rights of the Babuluko indigenous pygmy peoples of the Walikale Territory. He has been defending peoples land rights for 8 years.
He is a member of the wise council of the future community forest concession called "Kisimbosa Chamakasa", a pilot community forestry experiment specific to the indigenous Babuluko pygmy peoples in the DRC.
Article submitted by Mochire Diel \ PIDP. Texts edited for this platform