Featured Scholar, Fall 2008
Dr. Prosper Nobirabo of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Dr. Nobirabo has given SRF permission to use his name and all identifying information.
Dr. Prosper Nobirabo is a scholar of international law and political science with a Ph.D. in international law from the University of Bern in Switzerland. An indigenous Batwa, or “Pygmy,” from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dr. Nobirabo has addressed heads of state and consulted to NGOs and the UN to promote the needs of constitutional protection for indigenous minority rights. He has received numerous international awards for his work and in his relatively short academic career, has established himself as an expert on minority rights in constitutional law. Even before earning his Ph.D. summa cum laude, Dr. Nobirabo was recognized by European and African colleagues as the first of Central Africa’s Batwa population to have achieved such a high level of education and professional recognition. With joint SRF and Foundation Open Society Institute support since 2006, Dr. Nobirabo has established himself as a prolific writer. From his host campus at the University of Bern, he has published extensively in the last two years, including a 500-page book entitled, Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Law: A Case of the “Pygmies” of the D.R. Congo (2007). His second book on D.R. Congo’s political failings from Presidents Lumumba to Kabila is expected to be published by a French publishing house. In addition to numerous speaking events and interviews, Dr. Nobirabo has contributed to academic journals, including an October 2008 publication in International Review of Penal Law. He is currently undertaking research for two books: one on the participation of indigenous peoples and minorities in democracy, and the other on the decentralization of finances in a federated D.R. Congo and he is due to write another article on the recognition of gay and lesbian rights as minorities in international law.
International monitoring groups, including the International Crisis Group, have reported on D.R. Congo’s fragile democracy, pointing to the country’s elected government for a rise in human rights abuses and general insecurity. According to ICG, the national army “is still the country’s worst human rights abuser.” Dr. Nobirabo’s outspoken criticism of President Joseph Kabila’s government and its widespread corruption has brought on numerous threats from the national security forces, the very body charged with maintaining the country’s insecure peace. Since the publication of his first book, and the pending publication of his second, Dr. Nobirabo has been singled out and known to be on the government’s watch list. A Congolese journalist who has worked extensively with Dr. Nobirabo states that “Dr. Nobirabo will be very anxious about the national information agency because of his past and forthcoming publications.” One colleague in D.R. Congo notes that merely having Dr. Nobirabo’s book on hand is cause for prompting threats from security agents. His Swiss colleague, Uli Kern, has been placed on a “wanted list” by the Congolese Interior Ministry, but it was the poisoning death of a close Congolese colleague that ultimately convinced Dr. Nobirabo that the death threats, imprisonment and torture he suffered previously in D.R. Congo may well be consequences he would face anew if he returned to his home country at this time.
As Dr. Nobirabo approaches the end of his fellowship in November 2008, he is seeking longer-term academic positions until his safe return to D.R. Congo is possible. He is, therefore, currently exploring positions outside of Switzerland, where his visa status will expire without employment sponsorship. SRF and our partners are exploring post-fellowship positions on his behalf.
To read the International Crisis Group Report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, please click here