The human rights activist Félicien Tamuzi Talekwene Tafe died on March 2, 2019 in Bandundu city, western Democratic Republic of Congo, following a long illness. He will be deeply missed by Human Rights Watch, those who knew him, and those who benefitted from his many years of human rights work.
Tamuzi, 60, was the vice-president of the nongovernmental organization Œil des Victimes des Violations des Droits de l’Homme (Eye of the Victims of Human Rights Violations) and served as the general rapporteur of civil society organizations in Kwilu province.
He was a focal point of the Congo Advocacy Coalition, a group of Congolese human rights activists created in 2008 to strengthen human rights reporting and advocacy across Congo.
The eldest member of the coalition, Tamuzi was affectionately called the “patriarch” by his peers. A teacher by training, he was known for his engaging presentations explaining the human rights landscape in the former Bandundu province – including the current Kwilu, Kwango, and Mai-Ndombe provinces.
Tamuzi worked on elections-related rights violations and political repression, forced displacement of local communities, and abuses against indigenous populations. Most recently, he helped human rights colleagues better understand a spate of horrific violence in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe province, where at least 890 people were reportedly killed over three days in mid-December 2018. Tamuzi also regularly proposed solutions to a wide variety of problems, including access to electricity, water, transport, and education for people in his province.
When Human Rights Watch conducted research in Bandundu, Tamuzi was an indispensable partner, making us feel safe and helping to organize visits to prisons and meetings with key people. It seemed that everyone in Bandundu knew and respected him.
Tamuzi was born on July 23, 1958, in Nsankiey village, Bagata territory, Kwilu province. He was the proud father of five girls and five boys, including five children with his first wife, Julienne Tabuku, who died in 1997, and five with his second wife, Yolande Kibabi. Tamuzi loved his family very much and was committed to the education of his 10 children.
Congolese civil society has lost one of its most dedicated activists. Rest in peace, dear “patriarch.”