On November 12, 2018, police reportedly opened fire on students peacefully protesting at the University of Kinshasa, killing one student.
The students were holding a protest over a faculty strike at the University of Kinshasa that started on October 8. As students marched on campus, police called in to quash the protest reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition at students. Police reportedly chased students into residence halls and continued to fire on student protesters. Graduate student Hyacinthe Kimbafu was struck by a bullet and died days later after being hospitalized. Several students were detained by the end of the protest.
On November 15, after news broke of Mr. Kimbafu’s death, intense protests erupted on campus that were met by violent police force. Reports indicate that a second student was killed by police gunfire during that protest (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of lethal force and detentions by police in order to restrict students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly—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 the Congo is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain order and security, they must do so in a manner that is proportional to the situation, respects institutional autonomy, and does not restrict nonviolent expression or assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of violent force against student protesters undermines freedom of expression, institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.