Déborah Kitumaini Kasiba
Democractic Republic of Congo
Democractic Republic of Congo
Déborah’s husband, Pascal Kabungulu, was an eminent human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he exposed corruption and government abuses. In the middle of the night on July 31, 2005, men in military uniforms entered Pascal’s home and shot him in front of his wife and children. He was pronounced dead shortly after reaching the hospital.
Since then, Déborah and her family continue their fight against impunity, now from their new home in Canada where they have resettled as refugees. They hope that, one day, the truth about Pascal’s assassination will come to light, and that the perpetrators will be held accountable. Given that their justice efforts in the DRC were essentially blocked, Déborah and her children decided to bring the case to the international stage. With the help of CCIJ and the organization TRIAL, they filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in February 2016 to demonstrate that Pascal’s rights, as well as their own, were violated. The complaint also urged the DRC to reopen the investigation into Pascal’s death.
When we tell a story, it’s because we want people to know what happened and what is still happening. I want people to know the truth. I know I am not alone. Others have lived similar tragedies and I want to encourage them to not give up and to continue to speak up. When we find a place where we can openly talk, where we can explain what happened, it makes us feel better. Working with CCIJ helped me in that regard.
Yes, he knew it was dangerous. He began his career as a teacher, but he decided to become a human rights defender after witnessing the atrocities of the war in Rwanda in 1994. He came back to the DRC and said “I need to defend these people. What I saw there changed me.” He was traumatized by what he had witnessed and that’s what motivated him. Even though he knew his work could get him killed, he still believed it was important to expose the injustices and the abuses.
To achieve justice, those responsible for the assassination of Pascal must be punished for their crime. They need to know that what they did was wrong. I know that Pascal is gone, but those individuals can still harm other people because they are free. They don’t have any remorse because they haven’t been judged. We want justice. We need to put an end to impunity.
The Pascal Kabungulu Foundation offers support to families of human rights defenders who were assassinated in the DRC. I consider myself lucky because, after the death of my husband, I came to Canada. My children were able to continue their studies and they had access to medical services when they were sick. But it’s not the case for the widows and their children who remain in the DRC. They cannot provide for their family once the father is gone. They don’t have enough resources. So I knew I had to do something for these women, for these widows, and that’s why I created the Foundation.