Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively.  There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.  Local NGOs blamed these levels of corruption, in part, on the lack of a law providing for access to public information.

The Supreme Audit Court is charged with investigating and prosecuting public financial mismanagement.  In June, President Tshisekedi dismissed several magistrates on the Supreme Audit Court who had allegedly failed to pursue and prosecute corruption and financial crimes and appointed new leadership.  In August, following a two-year delay, President Tshisekedi swore in 57 Supreme Audit Court magistrates who had received training from the European Union.  Although the Supreme Audit Court prosecuted individuals throughout the year, it rarely published its findings.

In 2020, President Tshisekedi created the Agency for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption (APLC).  A special service under the Office of the President, the APLC is responsible for coordinating all government entities charged with fighting corruption and money laundering, conducting investigations with the full authority of judicial police, and overseeing transfer of public corruption cases to appropriate judicial authorities.  The Platform for the Protection for Whistleblowers in Africa asserted in 2021 that APLC’s record was mixed, without visible results.

Corruption:  Corruption by officials at all levels as well as within state-owned enterprises continued to deprive state coffers of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.  There were also credible reports of government corruption related to the repression of human rights.

The IGF accused several government officials of embezzlement throughout the year, including the minister of primary, secondary, and technical education for embezzling 799 million Congolese francs ($400,000) from a youth soccer program.  In February Radio France International (RFI) reported that the IGF alleged the Ministry of Health had embezzled 600 million Congolese francs ($300 million) in the past six years through various programs, including vaccination initiatives.  In June, the IGF released an audit report showing that from 2010-20 an estimated 799 billion Congolese francs ($400 million) that the state-owned mining enterprise Gecamines paid to the government in tax advances and loans could not be traced.  The head of the IGF, Jules Alingete, was quoted by the independent radio station Top Congo FM in 2021 as saying that at least 70 percent of public funds were routinely misappropriated.

Lack of enforcement of court decisions in corruption cases contributed to impunity, as rulings were often overturned in appellate proceedings or dismissed due to procedural errors.  In June, the Kinshasa Court of Appeals acquitted the president’s former chief of staff Vital Kamerhe, who had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegedly embezzling 99.9 billion Congolese francs ($50 million), citing insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Artisanal mining remained predominantly informal, illicit, and strongly linked to both armed groups and certain elements of the FARDC.  Government officials were often complicit in the smuggling of artisanal mining products, particularly gold, into Uganda and Rwanda.  The law prohibits the FARDC from engaging in mineral trade, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.  Criminal involvement by some FARDC units and armed groups included protection rackets, extortion, and theft.  The illegal trade in minerals was both a symptom and a cause of weak governance.  It illegally financed armed groups and individual elements of the SSF and sometimes generated revenue for traditional authorities and local and provincial governments.  A June report by the UN Group of Experts reported that FARDC members trafficked and profited from untagged coltan in North Kivu Province and illegally mined and taxed gold in Ituri Province.  Individual FARDC commanders also sometimes appointed civilians to manage their interests at mining sites covertly.

In conflict areas, both armed groups and elements of the SSF regularly set up roadblocks and ran illegal taxation schemes.  In 2019, IPIS published data showing state agents regularly sold tags meant to validate clean mineral supply chains.  The validation tags, a mechanism designed to reduce corruption, labor abuses, trafficking in persons, and environmental destruction, were regularly sold to smugglers.  In April, the NGO Global Witness published a report finding that government agents routinely and knowingly tagged minerals from unvalidated mines in North and South Kivu Provinces through the International Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI), a program to monitor supply chains and ensure extracted minerals are not linked to child labor or the influence of armed groups.

As in previous years, a significant portion of the country’s enacted budget included off-budget and special account allocations that were not fully published.  These accounts shielded receipts and disbursements from public scrutiny.  Eight parastatal organizations held special accounts and used them to circumvent the government’s tax collection authorities.  “Special accounts” are, in theory, subjected to the same auditing procedures and oversight as other expenditures; however, due in large part to resource constraints, the Supreme Audit Authority did not always publish its internal audits, or in many cases published them significantly late.  Under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standard of 2016, the government is required to disclose the allocation of revenues and expenditures from extractive companies.  In 2019, the EITI board noted the country had made meaningful progress in its implementation of the 2016 standard but also expressed concern regarding persistent corruption and mismanagement of funds in the extractive sector.  On October 12, the EITI board gave the country a high overall score in implementing the 2019 EITI standard (85.5 points), largely due to the country’s efforts to publish extractives sector contracts.  The country received lower scores regarding beneficial ownership and delays in establishing the sovereign mining fund for future generation and problems in transparency of mining royalty payments to the provincial and local levels.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated with varying government restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  Government officials, including representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Human Rights and the ANR, were sometimes cooperative and responsive to their views of domestic NGOs.

Retribution against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs):  Elements of the SSF continued to kill, harass, beat, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain domestic human rights advocates and domestic NGO workers, particularly when the NGOs reported on or supported victims of abuses by the SSF, or reported on the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  Armed groups repeatedly targeted local human rights defenders for violent retribution when they spoke out against abuses.  Frontline Defenders documented at least five cases of human rights defenders facing threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, and ill treatment in custody as a result of their advocacy during the year.  There were also regular reports of retribution against human rights defenders by armed groups, particularly in the eastern provinces of the country.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies:  The government at times cooperated with and permitted visits by United Nations representatives and other international organizations but was not consistent in doing so.  For example, the government refused to grant the United Nations access to certain detention centers, particularly at military installations such as military intelligence headquarters.  The government and military prosecutors cooperated with the UN team supporting investigations related to the 2017 killing of two UN experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, in Kasai Central Province.

Government Human Rights Bodies:  During the year the National Commission on Human Rights published reports and made public statements on prison conditions and human rights abuses.  It also held human rights training sessions for magistrates, visited detention centers, conducted professional development workshops for human rights defense networks, and followed up on complaints of human rights abuses from civilians.  Both the National Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Ministry continued to lack full-time representation in all 26 provinces.

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