Meet Ildephonse Masumbuko Sangolo. Mr. Sangolo is the field supervisor for Arche d’Alliance, an NGO based in Uvira that focuses on human rights and building civil society in Eastern Congo. It is Sangolo’s job to supervise the inqueteurs, or field monitors, in monitoring the human rights situation in remote parts of Uvira and Fizi. The UN Human Rights Commission is unable to field the staff necessary to monitor the human rights situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), repatriating refugees from abroad, and the general civilian population in South Kivu. Thus, they have formed a partnership with the experienced staff of Arche to go out in the field and report back on the state of human rights.
Sangolo is also is in charge of the Comite de Mediation et Conciliation (CMC) and Noyaux de la Paix (NDLP) projects.
“We promote the respect of human rights to the local authorities,” says Sangolo, “but we also educate the general population on aspects of Congolese law so that they will be able to defend themselves.”
I asked Sangolo why human rights are being violated so massively in the Congo.
“First,” he said, “We have this war that will not end. Secondly, the state is nearly nonexistent.”
Sangolo explained that since the justice system and those tasked with enforcing it are not paid enough by the Congolese government, people with guns, money, and influence are able to get away with breaking the law and violating basic human rights. As long as they can pay off the magistrates and police, they can literally get away with murder.
“There are certain judges who do not accept corruption,” says Sangolo, “but there are others to whom money is more important than all else. For these people who perpetuate corruption, they must be brought to justice.”
Arche has diligently worked in the Congolese justice system, representing those whose human rights have been violated. Sangolo cited several examples where Arche intervened on behalf of people who would otherwise be ignored: a man whose land was given away by government officials who were either corrupt or inept, a 13 year old girl who was raped, and a woman who was raped by soldiers. In all these cases, justice was served thanks to Arche’s reporting and advocacy work.
I asked Sangolo about the situation of women’s rights in the Congo. He told me that women’s rights are being massively violated due to a combination of repressive local traditions and Congolese laws that are unfavorable towards women. Girls are not sent to school, or even if they are, they are expected to pay their own school fees. Husbands will tell their wives how to vote, and if a woman expresses herself in a public forum, she may face divorce or even severe physical violence. Women are often denied the right to inheritance.
“However, this is changing due to new laws that are being written,” says Sangolo, “which will strengthen the rights of women, starting with young girls. Right now it is a problem of application of these new laws.”
Sangolo explained that since the justice system is still weak, Arche’s work in educating the population on women’s rights is very important, and thus far the feedback has been positive.
“There are now women who can express themselves freely, without fear of retaliation,” he says, “And they are forming associations themselves to defend the rights of other women. These are the reactions we want: women expressing themselves, women voting their conscience, and women gaining the right to inheritance.”
What does Sangolo want to see in the future for the Congo?
“I want to see a Congo where people can express themselves freely, and without violence,” he says, “For a long time it has been that the only way someone can express themselves is by taking up a gun. When a man can simply say something to the authorities and they will listen to him; that is what I want in a new Congo.”
Posted By Walter James
Posted Jul 28th, 2009