The Democratic Republic of Congo has just tackled its decisive march towards its democratization. In fact, free and democratic elections have been organized for the first time since 1965. However, it is not only the elections that are at the basis of the democratization of a country, but also some other aspects such as good administration of justice. Unfortunately, justice is not independent in D.R.Congo. It lets unpunished several violations of human rights and lots of embezzlements committed by the ruling politicians. Impunity looms large in D.R.Congo, and this prevents our country from being a « State of Law », a state on the way to be democratized. To sum up, impunity does not go together with a democratic country or a state of law.

What is then impunity? This concept implies spontaneously the idea of the absence of legal proceedings against the authors of reprehensible deeds. Impunity can result from varied situations such as the dysfunctional justice and bad governance.

A. Dysfunctional justice

Several elements related to the functioning of justice generate or lead to impunity. First of all, we think of the absence of legal proceedings against the guilty. Such a situation leads straight to many contingencies. Among these contingencies, mention should be made of the deliberate will not to arrest the guilty for some inopportune reasons, for lack of logistic, equipment and transport means necessary for the launching of legal proceedings.
This justifies why in D.R.Congo, criminals walk freely all over Congolese towns.
Those in power struggle to prevent the justice from launching proceedings against their lawbreaker friends who are not in power. There are thus many eccentric sentences, and where inflicted, penalties do not correspond to the gravity of facts for which the authors are reproached.

A. Bad governance

Bad governance goes together with the harms that gnaw Congolese society today. These harms are, for example, corruption, influence traffic, etc. The Congolese society is corrupted at almost all the levels. This justifies why some authorities publicly embezzle official funds without any pursuit because they corrupt and use their influence on judicial power. They are called « untouchable ».

Impunity is at the basis of irresponsibility and arrogance which do not fit a state of law. All the workers in the civil service ought, at any level of the country, to answer politically and criminally for their bad deeds. Impunity thus appears as a bonus to indirectly encourage disobedience and lack of respect to both the laws and rules. It is the incompatible to the existence of a state of law. In any country worthy of being called a « state », laws should be respected by everybody and this without any exception.
Impunity discourages the effort to be done for the progress, generates mediocrity, and later on a generalized disorder which, in its turn, leads to the refusal to respect the laws or to abstain to look at their application among the members of a given human society. The generalized impunity renders the human society a kind of « outlaws », totally inferior to the world of animals.

As an illustration of that, let us mention the plundering of the Congolese natural resources initiated by the members of the government. In fact, if the actors of the pillages of 2002 had been severely punished, there would not have existed some others after that year.

We can then assume that impunity has led to its over lasting existence. Any penalty has got its intimidating aspect that impunity precisely removes to it. It is the lack of sanctions that has led to other pillages, and nothing proves today that such events will not happen in the future, be it near or far.

C. Strategies and means to fight against impunity

It is worth noting that from all the touchy situations that generate impunity, the fight against this complex phenomenon should start at the level of the whole population of the country. It should not be only for those people who are in power. For the success of such an enterprise, a general front should be set up, and this front should be first accepted by the masses before its launching. In fact, a new culture should be born in the nowadays mentality of the Congolese people, a mentality designated to combat this scourge named « impunity ». Without an asserted and sustained will, this scourge will re-appear more strongly than it was up to now. The starting point of such a wide campaign against impunity should be situated at the level of the Congolese citizens. It is then from the basis that fight should essentially start.

In addition, any strategy attempting to end impunity should take into account all the causes and elements that have been and still are at the basis of this scourge. Here, mention should be made of the attitude, the general behaviour or, to say it better, the population’s mentality on the one hand and the positive implication of the ruling class on the other hand.

Concretely, the state and all the NGO should be involved in this fight so that the rights of the masses should be respected. Campaigns of popular education of the citizens should be organized so that the masses have to know their rights and duties, as well as their limits. This is actually fundamental. In fact, when one ignores his rights, he will neither claim them nor make them respected. To claim his rights or to make them respected needs a certain preparation or learning.
As for legal proceedings of criminals, the state should ensure a certain formation to the magistrates and to their auxiliary agents. This formation should be appropriate. Their staff should be allotted goods salaries that will enable them to reject any entreaty to corruption. The good functioning of judicial institutions will generate confidence in the populations and allow the latter to consult spontaneously. Justice should neighbour the populations. Thus, many factors leading to impunity will be avoided if only the judicial apparatus has efficient and rapid functioning, and this thanks to the ameliorations hitherto mentioned.
By Me Edouard Laddy Tshishimbi Mpamba
Lawyer and Human Rights defender.