UN mission helps fix up prison in western DR Congo

6 July 2009
Conditions in DRC prisons are generally poor

Prisoners in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are now living in better conditions, thanks to the help of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, in the vast African nation.

Prisoners in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are now living in better conditions, thanks to the help of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, in the vast African nation.

Dozens of two-man cells were rehabilitated and disciplinary and toilets were built during MONUC’s three-month Quick Impact Project (QIP) at the central prison in Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province.

Built during the Belgian colonial era in the 1930s, the prison also was equipped by the UN mission with bicycles, office tables and chairs, as well as other supplies.

This project is part of MONUC’s efforts to restructure the DRC’s prison system, having also recently held a workshop with the Ministry of Justice to consider how to restructure prison administration.

A 10-day workshop which ended last week in the capital, Kinshasa, brought together 50 representatives of Government, academia and civil society, as well as one dozen UN experts.

Harriet Solloway, who heads MONUC’s Rule of Law section, said that escapes and mutinies, as well as illness and death, occur regularly, owing to insufficient and often unqualified personnel.

“It is rare for prisons to have a maintenance and operational budget for the prisoners,” she said, with prisons themselves dilapidated.

Late last month, nearly two dozen female inmates were raped during an attempted prison break in the North Kivu capital of Goma.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that incident “is a grim example of both the prison conditions and the level of sexual violence that plagues the DRC,” appealing to the Government “to bring to justice those who have committed these crimes and, more generally, to renew efforts to bring an end to the impunity too often enjoyed by perpetrators of sexual violence.”

Earlier in July, inmates attempted to escape from the Aru Central Prison in Ituri province, the second prison break in the DRC in less than one month.

Underscoring how prison conditions at Aru and throughout the DRC are well below international standards, MONUC reiterated its call on Congolese authorities to both improve conditions and bolster security in penitentiaries.

 

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