On February 7, 2018, Dr. Alphonse Maindo, a professor of political science at the University of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was charged with defamation in connection with a dispute over grades with one of his students.
Dr. Maindo has long been an outspoken critic of what he alleges is a common practice of granting “false grades” and “false diplomas” to individuals in power. In October of 2017, he reportedly refused to grant a passing grade to Innocent Kabundi, a military general and a student of his, whom he claimed had never attended his class. The university faculty reportedly overrode Dr. Maindo’s decision, granting Kabundi a passing grade. Dr. Maindo reportedly responded by writing a letter to his department’s dean, challenging the decision; the letter was subsequently leaked on social media. Shortly thereafter, Kabundi brought a criminal defamation complaint against Dr. Maindo. As of this report, the criminal action against Dr. Maindo remains pending. If convicted, Dr. Maindo faces up to a year in prison, as well as monetary fines.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to free expression and academic freedom — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a party. Criminal actions which retaliate for normal academic and expressive activity — including grading and communications between staff and administration — chill academic freedom and undermine university autonomy. State and university authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.