This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 14 July 2016.
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) joins its member in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Journaliste en Danger (JED), to demand the unconditional release of a Burundian media professional who has been in detention since October 13, 2015 in Kinshasa.
Egide Mwemero is a technician working with private-owned radio station, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. Radio Publique Africaine was set ablaze during the Burundian protests in 2015. The station was part of a number of radio stations targeted for destruction during the protests.
Mwemero, who was in exile in DRC, had gone to Uvira, South-Kivu province in DRC, to repair the transmitter of Radio Le Messager, a partner station of RPA, where he was arrested.
The Congolese authorities accused Mwemero of several charges including “military espionage” in DRC in favour of Rwanda while others accused him of belonging to a revolutionary movement which aims at destabilizing Burundi. The Detection Militaires des Actions Anti-Patrie (DMIAP), a section of the military service responsible for ensuring national security of the country also leveled a charge of “military revolt” against him.
After months of secret detention in the dungeons of various military services, Egide Mwemero was finally transferred on May 28, 2016 to the Makala central prison, in Kinshasa.
Mwemero denied all charges leveled against him, reiterating that he has never been involved in any military movement. “I am only a technician for RPA, I have never been enrolled in any military movement,” Mwemero told JED. He also added that he had suffered several acts of torture while in detention at various military camps and that his health condition has deteriorated.
AFEX and its member, JED, condemn the arbitrary and prolonged detention of Egide Mwemero. We call on the Congolese authorities to release him unconditionally. We also urge the country's authorities to ensure that Mwemero receives medical attention immediately and cleared of all charges.
We appeal to the country's authorities to investigate all acts of torture against Mwemero while in detention and duly punish the perpetrators.
The prolonged detention of Mwemero without trial violates the country's constitution as well as provisions of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the DRC has ratified since 1979.
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
National Union of Somali Journalists
West African Journalists Association