On October 7, 2018, Congolese authorities reportedly arrested Catholic University of Graben (UCG) political scientist Nissé Nzereka Mughendi, in apparent retaliation for his academic work.
Mughendi is a professor in UGC’s Faculty of Political, Social and Administrative Sciences and the director of the Central Office for Political and Strategic Studies.
On October 6, 2018, Mughendi and UCG colleagues marked the four years of mass killings by armed groups that have intensified in Beni by holding a conference open to the public. During the conference and in an October 5 press interview, Mughendi made comments critical of the government’s defense strategy, claiming the state was in part responsible for a rise in armed groups. Around the same time as the conference, Mughendi reportedly planned to meet with survivors and family members of victims of the killings.
On October 7, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Butembo summoned Mughendi. The professor presented himself at the NIA bureau and was arrested. Authorities reportedly told Mughendi that he was arrested for interviewing family members of victims without consulting the government. Officials further accused Mughendi of belonging to a “criminal association” and collaborating with the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist armed group.
On October 11, following significant advocacy efforts by academics, students, and others, the court granted Mughendi a provisional release.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and academic freedom— conduct that 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. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Arrests aimed at limiting such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.