Freedom of assembly was restricted, and security forces beat up people in detention. The country passed a law on gender-based violence; however, discrimination against women was still widespread. Obstacles remained to the availability and accessibility of healthcare, and there were reports of environmental degradation.
In July, the ruling party won 111 of 151 seats in the parliamentary elections more than one year after President Denis Sassou Nguesso was re-elected as head of state, serving his fourth consecutive term in office after 36 years in power. The results were confirmed by the Constitutional Court in August, rejecting 30 annulment appeals filed by several candidates. On 21 January, the International Monetary Fund granted an extended credit facility of USD 455 million to the Congolese state, accompanied by the requirement that the country carries out reforms to improve the governance of public funds. Several members of the family of the president were still under investigation before the French justice system over allegations of corruption.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Congolese activists tried to organize a demonstration in the capital, Brazzaville, on 8 April to protest against the poor quality of services provided by the national electricity company. The announcement was made online and an authorization was requested from the prefecture beforehand. On 6 April the prefect of the department banned the demonstration on grounds of public order. In defiance of this ban, on 8 April the organizer went to the demonstration site, where he was arrested by police and held for several hours before being released. He reported that he had been beaten while in detention.
Arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment
Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, was still in detention, despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considering his detention as arbitrary. He was sentenced in 2018 to 20 years’ imprisonment for “undermining the internal security of the state” and “illegal possession of weapons and munitions of war”.
According to the Centre of Development Actions (CAD) and the Congolese Human Rights Observatory, the Congolese police beat up three people in Brazzaville in early January, causing the death of one of them. After the publication of the video of the incident on social networks, four police officers were sentenced to 10 years in prison on 9 February for deliberate assault and battery causing death and the state was ordered to pay damages.
In March, Congo passed the “Mouébara law” on combating violence against women, including domestic violence. It included provisions on prevention; protection of victims; medical, psychological, social and legal support to victims; and penalties for perpetrators of up to 20 years in prison. The law notably included specific provisions to protect widows’ rights in inheritance.
The report Women, Business and the Law 2022 produced by the World Bank, which assesses laws that can have an impact on economic opportunities for women, indicated that the legal framework in Congo is detrimental to women’s economic rights. The report highlighted many areas in need of improvement, including gender inequality in property and inheritance.
Right to health
In early 2022, a measles epidemic took hold in Congo. According to a statement by the minister of health in April, the department of Pointe-Noire was the epicentre of the epidemic with 5,488 notified cases, including 112 deaths. A national vaccination plan against measles and yellow fever was launched on 15 August.
According to a statement by the minister of health in March, maternal, neonatal and infant death rates increased due to the coronavirus pandemic and delays in measles vaccination. In 2021, maternal mortality deaths rose to 445 per 100,000 births, up from 378 per 100,000 births in 2020.
According to the local NGO CAD, the health situation in Congo remained fragile; the organization highlighted the lack of beds in several health centres and accessibility problems in certain areas due to the remoteness of some communities, lack of transport and/or poor road conditions.
According to a statement by the Departmental Directorate of the Environment in June, the Loubi lagoon in Pointe-Noire department had been cleaned up in accordance with Congolese standards. This followed a complaint filed in 2016 by the local association Youth for Life in Kouilou against an oil company, denouncing two crude oil spills into the Loubi lagoon in 2004 and 2011. In March 2019, the Pointe-Noire court of justice ordered the company to resume clean-up operations in the lagoon and pay XAF 50 million (approximately USD 77,600) for “moral damage” to Youth for Life in Kouilou and XAF 150 million (approximately USD 232,800) for environmental damage. The company appealed against the decision.
The residents of the Vindoulou neighbourhood in the Loango sub-prefecture continued to complain to the authorities about environmental damage caused by a metal and battery recycling company operating near homes and schools in their area since 2012. They claimed that the factory caused major air pollution and discharged massive quantities of oil into the streets. The Prefect of Kouilou had ordered the closure of the factory in August 2020 for a period of three months for non-compliance with environmental legislation. The company resumed its activities in November 2020 following an agreement by the Ministry of the Environment, Sustainable Development and the Congo Basin but without carrying out the necessary improvements according to the residents. Medical samples were taken during the same period by the Departmental Health Directorate, but the results were not published.