Teachers arrested after peaceful strike in the Republic of Congo

Authorities in the Republic of Congo must immediately release two teachers arrested in connection with a peaceful strike and held for a week without charge, Amnesty International said today.

Hilaire Eyima, head of the French department at the school Lycée de la Révolution, was arrested by plainclothes police officers at his home on 18 April. He is still being held at the headquarters of the General Directorate for the Surveillance of the Territory (DGST).

Claude Nzingoula, a teacher at the medical school in the capital Brazzaville, was arrested on Friday 19 April at his school and was also taken to the DGST headquarters, where he has been detained since.

“Hilaire Eyima and Claude Nzingoula are only detained for standing up for their rights. The continuing detention of these two prisoners of conscience is a blatant disregard to freedom of expression and assembly by the Congolese authorities,” said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa Program director.

The two teachers have reportedly been denied access to a lawyer of their choice.

Amnesty International has adopted them as prisoners of conscience.

The teachers’ strike begun on 25 February, after negotiations stalled between the Congolese authorities and trade unions over teacher’s status in the public sector.

Upon his arrest, Hilaire Eyima was told he was being taken in for his use of SMS (text messages) to spread information about the strike.

These are the latest in a string of arrests and harassment of members of a coalition of teachers’ unions in Republic of Congo called CPRE (Concertation pour la revalorisation de la profession d’enseignant/ Coalition for improving the teaching profession).

Daniel Ngami, co-chairman of the coalition, was arrested by National Security office agents on 1 April. Luc Mba Mongo, also a CPRE member, was arrested the following day. They were both held without charge and released five days later.

Before being released, Ngami was forced to read a statement on national media calling on teachers to return to work.

Other CPRE members have been harassed and intimidated and some have gone into hiding after their houses were searched without a warrant.

“Instead of punishing them for standing up for their rights, the Congolese authorities should ensure teachers are able to protest without fear of reprisals and engage in a constructive dialogue with them,” said Paule Rigaud.