Press Release / Aug. 11, 2006

Ongoing intimidation of anti-corruption activists in Congo-Brazzaville

The international Publish What You Pay Coalition (PWYP) condemns the judicial harassment of the foremost anti-corruption activists in Congo-Brazzaville, Brice Mackosso and Christian Mounzéo, as a politically-motivated attempt to silence calls for more responsible management of the country’s oil wealth. Congo is one of the poorest and most heavily indebted African countries, despite earning billions in oil revenues.

The attacks on anti-corruption campaigners come at a crucial moment in the campaign for more transparency in Congo’s oil sector. The government has supposedly committed to setting up a multi-stakeholder committee to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international framework for disclosing oil revenues in which civil society is intended to play a key oversight role. In addition, the establishment of Poverty Reduction Strategy and of an Anti-Corruption Commission with independent civil society participation are essential conditions for debt relief agreed with the IMF and World Bank under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Overall, debt relief for Congo is premised on increasing good governance, particularly in managing the natural resource sector, including increased public oversight.

Mounzeo and Mackosso were imprisoned for 3 weeks in April on false charges of having stolen funds from Mounzeo’s organisation and sent to trial for ‘forgery’, despite the pre-trial judgment that there was no evidence of misappropriation. The current judicial process appears to be being deliberately dragged out in order to prevent the two activists from continuing their campaigning activities. For example, the final trial hearing scheduled for 25 July was postponed to 29 August and then again to 24 October. An appeal process against the pre-trial judge’s decision to drop the charges of misappropriation against the two men has also just been launched, just as the trial is about to conclude. This appeal is now to be heard on the 9 October.

The judicial proceedings have been characterised by flagrant violations of Congolese law and of international human rights conventions to which Congo is a signatory. These include arbitrary detention, illegal searches of without warrants, the seizure of documents without relation to the charges and without them being entered into the legal record, and now the existence of 2 simultaneous legal procedures and the submission of an appeal by the Public Prosecutor outside the time-frame legally permitted under Congolese law.

The four-month campaign against the country’s most dynamic transparency and human rights advocates by the Congolese government is clearly an attempt to stifle public debate on the management of oil wealth in a country where 70% of people live below the poverty line. The government’s commitment to reform its management of public finances is further thrown into doubt by its contracting a non-concessional loan of $32 million with China in June 2006, in clear contravention of the terms of the HIPC agreement.

The international PWYP Coalition calls on the Congolese government to put an end to the judicial farce by dropping all charges against Brice Mackosso and Christian Mounzeo and to guarantee their safety and freedom of expression in the future. We also call on the international community to renew their calls for the immediate release of the 2 activists, and for the Congolese authorities to respect the government’s own commitments to human rights and to good governance and transparency reforms, including independent oversight of revenue management, under the HIPC programme.

For further information, please contact:

Henry Parham, International Coordinator, PWYP Coalition: +44 (0) 77 6026 8959
Sarah Wykes, Global Witness: +44 207 561 63 62 / +44 7703 108 449
Grégoire Niaudet, Secours Catholique, French PWYP Coalition : +33 (0)1 45 49 75 68 / +33 (0)6 16 93 20 15
Defence lawyers : Maître William Bourdon: +33 (0)608 455 546; Maître Magloire Senga : + 242 559 7462