Justice sector is failing in Congo

AfriMAP report calls for reforms to strengthen rule of law

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

September 17th, 2013

The justice sector is the most important pillar of the rule of law in any society. In a post-conflict society such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it plays the additional role of guaranteeing stability and peace but if it is unable to promote, safeguard and protect values ​​of fairness and justice, it can plunge a society into anarchy and social unrest, says a report published by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) and OSISA.

Written by a panel of three experts - Kifwabala Tekilazaya, professor at the University of Lubumbashi and advocate at the Supreme Court of Justice, and two attorneys, Defi Fataki Wa Luhindi and Marcel Wetsh'Okonda - the report Democratic Republic of Congo: Justice Sector and the Rule of Law, questions the ability of the Congolese justice sector to promote, respect and uphold the rule of law, as well as other challenges inherent in this sector.

It paints a compelling picture of the pitfalls that affect the governance of the sector in the Congo and its ability to meet democratic standards, as well as the Congolese population’s need to access to justice.

"The establishment of the rule of law is an ongoing process," said Siphosami Malunga , Executive Director of OSISA. "It requires political will demonstrated by clear policies and adequate resources that can meet the inevitable challenges."

The independence of the judiciary and working conditions of magistrates are constant concerns in the DRC. Partly because of near-humiliating working conditions, judges have often failed to meet their duty of responsibility and good behaviour. Corruption, bribery and denial of justice are common practices within the judiciary.

The report also points to the delaying tactics implemented by the government to hinder the establishment of institutions to ensure and uphold the independence of the judiciary. When these institutions were finally installed, the government used its budgetary powers to make them ineffective, or subjected them to attacks incompatible with the principle of separation of powers.

"The Constitution has laid a solid foundation for the independence of the judiciary, but very little has been done to build on these foundations," charged Roger Mvita, AfriMAP programme coordinator in DRC. "When laws governing the independence of the judiciary have been adopted, the government has frustrated their application in an apparent attempt to keep the judiciary under its control."

The report dissects all the problems facing the justice sector and aims to contribute to the formulation of national policies to address them. Based on a rigorous analysis of the current situation, it also provides a rationale for mobilising adequate resources and ensuring that they allocated to the real needs of the sector.

The report also dwells on repeated infringements on the judicial independence and accountability of judges. It presents a critical picture of the ineffectiveness of official development assistance in the area of justice and calls for better coordination between the technical and financial partners of the DRC.

"Coordination of donors in the justice sector is consistent with national planning capacity and the need for judicial reform," said Nick Elebe, Director of OSISA's office in DRC. "The government should properly take charge of state sovereignty by establishing a planning capacity in the area of justice, ensuring the implementation of an appropriate policy and ensuring that development partners register their interventions."

The report recommends that the government initiate an assessment of the status of implementation of national reform efforts under the Justice Plan and, on this basis, update the plan by ensuring the incorporation of a timeline and a substantial budget.

The report on the justice sector and the rule of law is the fourth in a series of studies devoted to the analysis of specific issues of governance in the DRC, the other three have focused on the challenges of governance in the area of Military Justice (2008), the provision of public education services (2008) and of democracy and participation in political life (2010).

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