The National Endowment for Democracy honored Floribert Chebeya with its Democracy Service Medal in a ceremony, July 26, held at the United States Holocaust Museum. Chebeya was awarded the medal posthumously for his work as founder and president of Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless) a leading Congolese human rights organization that works to defend and empower citizens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His widow, Annie Chebeya Mangbenga, accepted the award on his behalf.
“To countless people in the DRC as well as in other African countries, Floribert was a savior,” NED President Carl Gershman said at the ceremony. “From his unmarked and humble office, he fought for Congolese citizens whose rights the country’s leaders had ignored and trampled upon.”
Chebeya was killed in June 2010 after criticizing the inspector general of the police for a violent suppression of a political and religious movement in Kinshasa, DRC. A military tribunal in June 2011 sentenced to death four of eight defendants in the case, though the police commissioner John Numbi — considered to be the prime suspect — was never charged.
Comments from Annie Chebeya were particularly moving. “Ladies and gentleman, the voice of the voiceless is no longer with us. I hope that you who are present will not forget to be the voices who will grow louder to defend this cause.”
Annie Chebeya remarked that her husband was a wonderful father to their six children. She and her children have moved to North America, where they have started a new life. She continues to fight to learn the entire truth of the death of her husband and his driver, Fidele Bazana.
The medal presentation came at the end of a half-day conference, “Voices from the Congo: the Road Ahead,” co-organized by NED, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Eastern Congo Initiative.
The conference webpage has some podcast interviews, which are worth the time to listen to.