A Social Movement To Be Reckoned With In Africa

April 22, 2015
Fadel Barro, one of the leaders of Y'en a Marre (We're Fed Up) movement and Oscibi Johann, one of the leaders of Burkina Faso's Balai Citoyen (Citizens Broom) at a press conference in Kinshasa on March 15, 2015 before several activists were detained. (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)
Fadel Barro, one of the leaders of Y’en a Marre (We’re Fed Up) movement and Oscibi Johann, one of the leaders of Burkina Faso’s Balai Citoyen (Citizens Broom) appear at a press conference in the Democratic Republic of Congp. Youth activists were detained following this event on March 15, 2015. (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)

We are not plotters or terrorists, we are a new generation of committed young Africans.

We who hold the destiny of the continent in our hands must not be deprived of our freedom.

We are a new civic movement that has just emerged in Africa. We will not be intimidated by long detentions, harassment and repression.

We are Filimbi. We are Lucha. We are Balai Citoyen. We are Y en a Marre. We use our voices and whistles rather than weapons to advance democracy. We put good governance, responsible government and respect for basic freedoms at the top of our list of demands. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and all over Africa, we are proud to be part of the civic awakening of young Africans.

On 15 March, we were astounded at the brutal way in which the Congolese authorities broke up the Filimbi movement’s peaceful press conference at the Eloko ya Makasi cultural center in Masina commune, Kinshasa in the DRC. However, the press conference was only the final stage of a two-day workshop to raise the awareness of young people about the importance of civic engagement in the democratic process.

Moreover, young people are quite rightly praised when they start to take an interest and decide to put themselves at the service of the republic and teach the positive values of civic education and peaceful engagement in political and democratic debate, because they are the future of the continent.

The DRC ignored legal procedures when they arrested us. Man-handled by the security forces, some of us spent several nights in detention in the cells of the Agence Nationale des Renseignements National Intelligence Agency.

About thirty of us were arrested on 15 March. At the time of writing, we have no news of five of our colleagues; Fred Bauma, Sylvain Saluseke, Yves Makwambala, Deddy Kishimbi and Dieumerci are still detained and their families and lawyers are not allowed to visit them.

This completely violates article 18 of the 2006 Congolese Constitution, which describes procedures for arrest and detention and requires the authorities to notify interested parties of the reasons for any arrest.

Ben Kabamba, an activist from the Congolese movement Filimbi speaks during a press conference in Kinshasa on March 15, 2015. Activists from Senegal's Yen a Marre movement and Burkina Faso's Balai Citoyen along with several Congolese activists were detained after the press conference in Kinshasa.  (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)
Ben Kabamba, an activist from the Congolese movement Filimbi speaks during a press conference in Kinshasa on March 15, 2015. (Photo: FEDERICO SCOPPA/AFP/Getty Images)

The information minister, Lambert Mende, treated us like terrorists plotting against the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, on setting foot in the DRC, we carried no weapons in our suitcases and held no evil intentions in our young African hearts. Our only aim was to share good practice and show Congolese youth the importance of peaceful engagement and the defense of democratic values.

Above and beyond the brutality of their action, the illegality of the detentions and their use of the term “terrorists and plotters” to describe us, the DRC authorities wanted to stifle the firmly anchored enthusiasm of young people who are already fully engaged in political debate, the elections and advocacy for basic rights.

Y’en a marre took this approach in Senegal five years ago in its campaign to encourage young people to register on the electoral roll, become better informed and fight injustice and inequality in response to social problems and government failures.

We became involved in a peaceful way, because we believe this is the only way we can strengthen the democratic process and build a popular movement strong enough to make the state accountable.

We therefore call on the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to end the illegal and secret detention of our colleagues of Filimbi. They belong with all the other young people whose progressive initiatives are having an impact on the continent and must be allowed to help build a genuine democracy in the DRC.

The silence of African institutions is worrying. We can only remind them that the founding values of the African Union are solidarity and respect for freedoms.This is a guilty silence. It betrays the young people of the DRC and youth throughout the African continent and ignores the fact that youth holds the destiny of the continent in its hands.

African institutions must publicly affirm and maintain that youth is playing an essential role in the consolidation of democracy in the continent. They must call on the DRC authorities to release our secretly detained colleagues in Kinshasa and respect basic freedoms.

We have a moral duty to those who are still detained and also to ourselves as African citizens. Join us in our fight for the release of our colleagues.

We are Filimbi. We are Lucha. We are Balai Citoyen. We are Y en a marre. We use our voices and whistles for democracy, not weapons. We are not plotters. We are not terrorists. We are young African activists!

Signed,
the youth of

FILIMBI

LUCHA

Y’en a marre

Balai Citoyen