417 people, including women, children and street children, who were arrested by the Congolese National Police (PNC) after the November 11 2006 unrest in Kinshasa, have been detained and will now be sent on national service against their will.
These arrests follow the fighting in the Congolese capital on the morning of Saturday November 11 last when 4 people were killed, including three civilians and an FARDC soldier.
The Governor of the city and province of Kinshasa launched an official press release saying that the arrests are the result of the decision to prevent any unauthorised protest or demonstration in Kinshasa.
In the press release, the Governor announced a reinforcement of police patrols in Kinshasa, and clarified that 39 women and 87 minors, including 3 babies, are among those arrested.
According to the Governor, “these persons who have become habitual offenders are placed at the disposal of the National Service, following the directive of the Minister of the Interior, Security and Decentralisation.”
“They will be trained and introduced to works in the production sector, particularly farming and agriculture, at the expense of the city and province of Kinshasa. They will get vocational training which will help them to become useful for themselves and the nation.”
The press release also states that the male street children will be transferred to a pilot center for national service in Kanyama Kasese in the province of Katanga, while the women will be transferred to a center in Menkao, on the Bateke plateau in Kinshasa.
This intervention of the PNC, which continued until Monday November 13, and which is welcomed in some ways, also raises serious questions.
Not all the arrested people were implicated in the confrontations of November 11 in Kinshasa. Consequently, if no charges are made against them, they must be released.
The current performance of the PNC, due to the support of MONUC and EUPOL, has enabled them to reach an acceptable standard in relation to respect for human rights.
As they await prosecution, the people arrested in obvious law and order offences and those against which charges were already made are likely to be kept in Makala prison.
On the other hand it is difficult to understand why this same police force, on the order of the Admiral Liwanga Mata Nyamunyobo, Governor of the city-province of Kinshasa, decides to send some of those arrested to centres of paramilitary and civic formation which have not been operational for a long time.
However, even if the arrests of people implicated or non implicated in the unrest forms part of the prerogatives of the police force, no legislation makes it possible for the security services to transfer, against their will, the people who have not yet been prosecuted to centres of formation where the living conditions leave something to be desired.
While waiting to see whether the Kinshasa police authorities will go through with this plan, one must also question the conditions of detention in the Provincial Inspection of Kinshasa (IPKin), when one knows the living conditions in the Kinshasa prisons.