DRC blocks SA human rights advocate Dr Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala


Dr Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala was denied entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Image: Unpopular Opinion / YouTube)

In a concerning turn of events, a workshop organised by the Bureau de Liaison avec le Parliament (BLP/CENCO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became marred by controversy even before its commencement.

The workshop took place from the 10th to the 11th of August 2023 in Kinshasa’s Gombe district. It sought to address critical issues related to governance, transparency, and human rights.

BLP/CENCO, known for its role in facilitating dialogue between the Parliament and civil society, had extended an invitation to South Africa’s Dr Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala to participate as a key speaker and share her insights on human rights advocacy in the region.

However, the intentions of fostering open dialogue and collaboration were cast into doubt after Dr Litchfield-Tshabalala was denied entry into the DRC when she arrived at Kinshasa’s N’djili International Airport, with no valid reason given.

A well-respected human rights advocate with a history of advocating for marginalised communities, she was set to contribute valuable perspectives to the workshop’s discussions.

The situation intensified with reports that other participants, including two individuals from Zambia, one from Kenya, and one from Central Africa, were all granted entry. This ignited speculation and drew attention to the apparent selectivity in admitting participants’ entry in DRC to attend the workshop.

The denial of entry also raises concerns about the DRC’s stance on freedom of speech and human rights advocacy as well as its relationship with South Africa. Dr Litchfield-Tshabalala‘s expertise and contributions are integral to the exchange of ideas and the search for solutions to pressing issues faced by many African Countries.

The incident cast a shadow over the workshop’s objectives and its ability to foster meaningful discussions.

BLP/CENCO, as the organising body, has yet to release an official statement regarding the denial of entry.

This incident underscores the challenges faced by many human rights advocates and organisations in the DRC. It also adds fuel to discussions about the need for a more open and inclusive approach to governance, where civil society actors can participate without fear of reprisals.

The DRC’s commitment to human rights, freedom of expression, and open dialogue will continue to be scrutinised in the wake of this incident.


Henry Wackam is a a human rights defenders in Africa.

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