GOMA, DRC - More than 200 human rights organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling for the immediate release of two activists arrested at a civics workshop in Kinshasa on March 15.
The call follows a recently released parliamentary inquiry that found no evidence the pair was guilty of plotting violent crimes, as authorities had alleged.
Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala were among 30 pro-democracy activists arrested by national intelligence agency officials as they gathered to launch Filimbi, an interactive platform designed to raise youth awareness of civic duties.
While most of the activists, including a Senegalese and a Burkinabe, were quickly released, Bauma, a member of La Lucha (the Struggle for Change), a citizens’ movement based in Goma, and Yves Makwambala, a webmaster and graphic artist, have been held for three months without trial. They and four other Filimbi activists in exile were accused of conspiracy and terrorist activities.
The rights coalition, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many Congolese groups, issued a joint appeal for their release after reviewing the parliamentary report they, according to their spokesperson, found no evidence of wrongdoing.
"We are asking Congolese authorities to free the activists immediately," said Justine Masika, a spokesman for the coalition. "According to a parliamentary report they were not involved in any terrorist activities."
On Friday, parliamentarians held closed-door debates about contents of the Filimbi report, in which security services are quoted as saying there is no evidence the two detainees were plotting violent crimes.
Juvenal Munubo, an opposition parliament member, says three MPs from the ruling majority also pleaded for their release.
VOA contacted two of those parliament members who did not immediately confirm nor deny the report.
The idea of a civic awareness campaign aimed at youth appears to have been partly inspired by La Lucha, Bauma’s movement.
According to La Lucha colleague Luc Nkulula, the movement’s objectives is to be a positive, proactive force for social and political change.
"For example ... mobilizing youth to vote so that a change of power will be possible," he said.
Human Rights Watch says the March 15 arrests were part of a broader crackdown on political party leaders and others who have peacefully protested attempts to allow DRC president Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the constitutional two term limit.