For the past four months, Stanis Bujakera, the deputy editor-in-chief of the news website “Actualite. cd” and correspondent for Jeune Afrique and Reuters, has languished in a cell at Makala prison in Kinshasa. His arrest follows the publication of an article by Jeune Afrique implicating Congolese military intelligence in the assassination of former minister turned opposition figure Chérubin Okende in July 2023. A collective of journalists, human rights defenders, and intellectuals have penned a tribune calling for his release, especially as the case has taken a new twist.
Stanis Bujakera was arrested on September 8, 2023, in Kinshasa, accused of fabricating a document attributed to the National Intelligence Agency (ANR). This document served as the basis for an unsigned Jeune Afrique article detailing the alleged circumstances surrounding the death of Deputy Cherubin Okende.
“Stanis Bujakera is paying too high a price for being a competent, professional journalist,” laments Alioune Tine, a researcher and UN expert who has endorsed the tribune. “He must be released immediately, without conditions,” insists the West African think tank Africajom Center director. “We also believe that authorities must respect press freedom and expression, fundamental in any self-respecting democracy.”
“This is symptomatic of the shrinking civic space observed in most African countries,” expresses concern Alioune Tine. “These are persistent trends. It is worrying, troubling. The African public opinion must react, protest, and support all journalists, like Bujakera, detained simply for doing their job professionally.”
Meanwhile, the case has taken a new turn. Two months after being appointed by the court, the expert tasked with conducting a counter-expertise requested by the defense wrote to the judges on Thursday, stating that he could not fulfill the assigned tasks. The expert’s mission was to verify the authenticity of the note attributed to the ANR and re-examine the prosecutor’s conclusions. He explained that he no longer had the necessary equipment to carry out his mission.
“The argument is that his machines were burned, and he was in the process of acquiring others, which would take him a long time,” explains Me Jean-Marie Kabengela, Stanis Bujakera’s lawyer. “We believe he lacks the expertise required because he is only an expert in computer tools, whereas, for the question at hand, expertise in telecommunications networks is necessary.”