The families were ordered to leave their homes on a piece of land in Birere, in the eastern part of Goma, DRC, in late April 2023, following a judgement handed down on 24 September 2021 by the Goma High Court.
The trial pitted the 300 families against a certain Christian Shabani Peke, who reportedly lives in Uvira in South Kivu province. However, according to the citizens’ movement AMKA Congo, Peke is only a fictitious personality that the mafia networks that plunder public concessions fabricated during the trial to wrest control of the land.
Peke, through his lawyers, convinced the judges that he had inherited the one-hectare concession from a Belgian in 1956. Even if this were true, according to Congolese law the statute of limitations on land ownership is 30 years, said Jacques Sinzahera, a member of AMKA Congo.
Some of the families are descendants of former workers at Telephone Sans Fil (TSF), a company that belonged to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. Those evicted recognise that this concession belonged to the State at the time, but not to the individual who is claiming it. According to them, only the Congolese state can evict them. In this case, they say they would accept the eviction but only on condition that the State compensated them for their plots of land, some of which they acquired more than 40 years ago.
The 300 families were given just ten days to leave their homes, and police were deployed en masse on 5 May to enforce this order, which led to scuffles between the police and the community. Shortly before the final eviction, the families had filed a third-party complaint with the North Kivu Court of Appeal, and lodged a complaint with the Goma prosecutor’s office demanding Christian Shabani Peke be identified to confirm whether he is in fact a real person.
In a statement on 27 April AMKA Congo demanded the government save this and a dozen other concessions in Goma under threat of being plundered. They also demanded the removal of some judges and magistrates who they say are involved in stealing land concessions.
On 29 April, the national Minister of Justice, Rose Mutombo Kiese, opened a new courthouse in Goma, and at the event she announced sanctions against all judges who are involved in acts of corruption, bribery and other practices that debase the image of Congolese justice. “The offence of corruption is a very complicated one. There is a bribe taker and a bribe giver. But as it is, many people denounce corruption, but the corrupt person is not seen. The population has always been asked to denounce the name of the corrupt magistrate so that he can be sanctioned. It is useless to say that people are corrupt. You go and give the money and you turn around and castigate what you have given. You are part of the offence,” she said.
On 2 May, faced with increasing threats of land in Goma being plundered, the governor of North Kivu, General Constant Ndima, set up a commission to shed light on the issue in the province.
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