Democratic Republic of Congo, indignation after 2 arbitrary expulsions

Message of solidarity and indignation from the Africa Region 1 of La Via Campesina after our comrades Alberto Gomez and Fatimatou Hima having been expelled from the Kinshasa airport, DRC, respectively in the evening of the 29 th of June and 1st of July 2012

Kinshasa, 30/06/2012

We, men and women, peasant leaders and members of La Via Campesina in austral, eastern and central african countries, specifically D. R. Congo, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe, gathered in Kinshasa from 27th of June to 4th July, to discuss key issues that being faced by peasants and landless people in the region, to define our struggle’s strategies within the neoliberal landscape, and to define our role and future at the heart of the world’s largest peasant movement, La Via Campesina, hereby express our indignation with the congolese migration authorities’ expulsion of our great comrades and friends Alberto Gomez, a mexican peasant leader, and Fatimatou Hima, from the Plateforme Paysanne du Niger, both members of the La Via Campesina International Coordination Committee, upon their arrival at the Kinshasa airport in the evening of the 29th of June and of 1st of July. Alberto travelled for 24 hours to reach Congo, to bring his support and experience, on behalf of all the Via Campesina peasant leaders, to us the movement’s african members. He was forced to return to Mexico in the same plane he has arrived in, without even being given the time to communicate with us or to rest, as well as the friendly methods used by the congolese immigration authorities.

All the administrative procedures were observed to make sure Alberto would be granted a “flying” visa, a type of visa which as far as we know, only exists in DRC, for which any person whose country of origin has no D. R. C. embassy is required to pay 250 USD in advance, in addition to paying 60 USD for an airport visa upon their arrival in D. R. C. The national authorities, namely the President of the DRC, the Prime Minister, the Governor of Kinshasa City, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the General Director of Migration had been officially informed of the organization of the regional meeting of La Via Campesina for the Africa 1 region. On her side, Ms. Hima had a valid visa issued by the Embassy of DRC in Rome.

For us there is no doubt that Alberto and Fatimatou, and through their person, the whole movement of Via Campesina, was victim of an arbitrary action from the part of an agent of the Congolese General Migrations Directorate, who did not even try to understand the situation or to listen to the members of COPACO who had come to the airport to find a solution to this situation. In the 29 evening, a member of COPACO was even threatened of being arrested on the spot. On July 1, another member of COPACO, has been arrested several  hours by police for trying to reach Ms. Hima who was still with Congolese immigration officers By the present message, we also wish to express our full solidarity to Alberto and Fatimatou, and sincerely apologize for the absurd and inhumane attitude of some agents representing our government and therefore representing us in governmental institutions.

We can imagine the moral and psychological violence that such an act represents for human beings, especially activists and citizens of the world such as Alberto and Fatimatou, who came to Congo as friends and in a spirit of solidarity among peasants of the world. In the case of Alberto, we can also imagine the physical discomfort of travelling 48 hours non-stop sitting on a plane. We know the sacrifice Alberto was making with this trip before it even started, especially considering all the activities he had been involved in throughout the previous days in Brazil while attending the RIO+20 Summit as a member of the international delegation of La Via Campesina.

At this stage, we refuse to see this situation as a political act aimed at preventing peasants of Africa and the world from articulating their strategies toward the achievement of food sovereignty and social justice, even though such incident has clearly had such an effect.

Today more than ever, the African peasants gathered in Kinshasa are determined to fight for transparent public institutions, free from arbitrary actions and corruption, which will no longer allow for unlawful acts such as the ones our comrades and friends Alberto Gomez and Fatimatou Hima have just been a victim of.