Mission de l'Organisation des Nations unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO)

Conscious of the existence of this scourge and its negative impact in such a volatile context faced by the DRC in general and Ituri in particular, the provincial bureau of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), with support from the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO/Bunia, organized from Wednesday 24 to Thursday 25 August 2022 a training workshop on the monitoring of the hate speech and the development of strategies to prevent and combat hate speech in the Ituri province.

Roughly forty attendees from the different social strata of the five territories of the Ituri province, in particular the civil society, journalists, community leaders, women's and youth groups, provincial authorities, the administration, the defense and security forces, military justice, political parties...participated. The objective of the workshop was to provide civil society actors with tools to enable them to characterize and detect and monitor the hate speech, and to prevent them.

Hate speech is defined by the United Nations as "any type of communication in speech or writing or any behavior that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory rhetoric alluding to a person or group of persons – in other words, based on their religion, ethnic origin, nationality, race, color, ancestry, gender or other identity factors”.

The UN believes that hate speech undermines efforts to restore social peace and coexistence. Civil society actors said hate speech is generally the root cause of several inter-communal conflicts that affect the Ituri province. According to them, several ongoing conflicts in this province derive their sources in such a discourse predicated on ethnic, religious, racial, or even historical line.

"We wanted to have a certain layer of the population who have responsibilities within our society here in Ituri; community leaders, politicians, religious denominations... We have brought them together to identify altogether the appropriate strategies to put in place to combat hate speech," said CNDH provincial coordinator in Ituri, Marie Pacuremia. She believes that hate speech is also practiced within community leaders.

"We also wanted to get the community to understand that they should not let themselves manipulated, and ethnic groups should not fight against each other, for fear of destroying our province. Our workshop aims itself to explore avenues to raise awareness among community members, to have discriminatory rhetoric banished, removed, and uprooted definitively”, she specified.

Referring to the impact of the hate speech in her province, she said hate speech demeans Ituri. "It even makes it look like hell: it makes life unbearable in the community ... Social cohesion is really threatened, not only peace, but sustainable development also… that is where we stand, divided".

Responsible Social networks…

For two days, participants were enlightened on several concepts and themes, in particular the definition of hate speech, presentations on the national normative framework for the prevention and repression of hate speech; the role and responsibility of male and female politicians and community leaders; the role and responsibility of the media in the prevention of the hate speech… the monitoring of hate speech and respect for the freedom of expression.

Marc-Josué Kapinga, the protection team leader within the Civil Society/Forces Vives in the Ituri province and human rights activist, said: “I was very impressed with this workshop. All the presentations given on the first day inspired me to submit a proposal to our National Assembly to review our Constitution because there are articles in the Constitution that promote the culture of hatred and discrimination”. She went on to say: “When the government applied the system of administration by the natives, it turned everything upside down and created discrimination, hatred, and the like. So, it is now necessary for our National Assembly, the lawmakers, to review those articles and return the power to the Head of State to appoint governors, which will help restore national unity.

Mr. Kapinga also pleaded for an improved governance of the social networks which are the main channels for the propagation of the hate speech. “The phenomenon of social networks poses problems. Today everyone calls themselves a journalist and writes what they want on social networks. Without knowing who he or she is, what his or her sources are... Is there any way we can proceed to improve the governance of social networks so that whoever presents or disseminates images on such a social network can also introduce themselves and say who they are?” he wondered.

At the end of the training workshop, an action plan on awareness-raising, prevention, and combating hate speech in the Ituri province was put in place.

It is worth noting that MONUSCO has defined its strategic action plan against this scourge this year; this aligns with the general action plan and strategy developed by the United Nations on the hate speech, adopted in 2018.

For its part, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, UNJHRO, in line with its mission to promote and protect human rights, is working on this topic of hate speech with a view to consolidating the achievements of human rights made so far, in a context of gradual withdrawal of MONUSCO from the country.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mission de l'Organisation des Nations unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO).