Kinshasa – The future of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) looks gloomy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following plans to effect a draft law aimed at regulating their work.
The bill introduces new restrictions aimed at reducing the number of NGOs operating in the Central African country.
It is expected to be considered before the end of this session of Parliament on June 15.
United Nations human rights experts have urged parliament to revise the law.
The experts said when passed in its current form, the bill would threaten the rights to freedom of expression and association and further restrict the civic space.
Among the concerned experts are Clement Nyaletsossi Voulé (UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association), Michel Forst (special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders) and David Kaye (the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression).
They are particularly concerned about some provisions, some denounced as too vague, which impose heavy and discretionary administrative requirements for the registration of associations.
There is a lack of judicial review of the registration process and the bill introduces restrictions on access to domestic and foreign funding and on the possibility for foreign organisations to engage in "political activities.”
“All these demands threaten the ability of civil society to carry out their activities, and underline a desire to muzzle dissenting voices,” the experts jointly stated.
“If passed, the bill will likely create confusion and fear among civil society, and act as a deterrent to human rights defenders and other activists.”
The new legal framework could hinder the role of civil society, which is
more crucial in this election year, concluded the experts.
DRC heads to elections before the end of the year. It is beset by militancy after President Joseph Kabila (47), in power for 17 years, failed to cede power at the expiry of his term in 2016.
Over 4 million people, or 5% of the population, have been displaced by conflict. – CAJ News