Prominent human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rams Wasolela, has confirmed he is alive through his Twitter account after mysteriously disappearing on Tuesday, May 12.
The national coordinator of the citizen movement, La Voix du Peuple (the Voice of the People), was reportedly last seen in Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga province, and then suddenly went off the radar.
“Thank you for your support, thanks to your pressure I am alive. Without you, I will be killed,” Wasolela finally tweeted briefly on Saturday morning.
His statement is coming a day after the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, also known as Front Line Defenders, an Irish-based human rights organisation, placed an urgent call on its website about the incident.
The organisation had noted that Wasolela’s disappearance coincided with “several publications by the defender on social networks, denouncing the insecurity in Lubumbashi and calling on the population to demonstrate”.
His movement, La Voix du Peuple, protects the rights of citizens through public mobilisation, peaceful demonstrations, and petitions.
“According to the family of the defender, Rams Wasolela left his home on 12 May 2020 around 2 p.m. and went to the city centre to go shopping. His family and friends have not heard from him since, and they have been unable to reach him via his telephone, which is turned off,” Front Line Defenders had said.
“Rams Wasolela’s family reported his disappearance to the Lubumbashi police station, but have not yet been informed of the possible investigation.”
Wasolela’s family believed his disappearance was not unconnected to his activities as an advocate and how he has recently denounced rising insecurity in the Haut-Katanga province, which has recorded a spike in robberies and burglaries. He had also criticised provincial authorities and law enforcement agents for their inability to safeguard the residents using his social media accounts.
According to Front Line Defenders, his “say he had told them they had received several death threats from unknown numbers and threats in comments on his social media posts in the week before he disappeared”.
The organisation added that it was very concerned and believes that his disappearance “is linked to his peaceful and legitimate work for human rights and the exercise of his freedom of expression”.
This is not the first time Wasolela would not be able to stay with his family as he wished. In December, had been arrested and detained for four days at the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in Lubumbashi.
Police officers had picked him up at the University of Lubumbashi for having with him a copy of a letter from La Lucha, a Congolese human rights organisation. He was later released after arraignment before a court.