Republic of the Congo Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as ROC by Abbreviationfinder, Congo-Brazzaville is not to be regarded as a free country. The president and his immediate circle hold a firm grip on both the country’s oil and political power. The opposition has little opportunity to come to power.

In 2015, the country’s constitution was changed following a referendum so that President Denis Sassou Nguesso could be re-elected for another term in 2016. Both the referendum and the presidential election were preceded and followed by harassment and threats of opposition, violence and human rights violations. There were reports of arbitrary detention and forced disappearances (see Current Policy).

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Freedom of assembly and association are enshrined in the country’s constitution, but above all freedom of assembly is not respected by the regime. Before the 2016 elections, for example, opposition meetings were stopped.

Civil society organizations are active in both social sectors and human rights. Those who work for human rights and political issues testify to threats and harassment.

Inequality is widespread and legislation is discriminatory against women. For example, the penalty for adultery is much harsher for women than for men. The proportion of women in Parliament was 7 percent in 2017 (see Social conditions).

Discrimination on ethical grounds is not allowed, but occurs extensively. The indigenous population is discriminated against both politically and socially and economically. Same-sex sexual acts are not prohibited, but LGBTQ people are discriminated against as a result of religious and traditional values.

Freedom of religion is statutory and is generally respected (see Religion).

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of speech and press is guaranteed in the Constitution. In practice, these rights are limited in different ways. Expressing criticism of the regime as a private person can lead to arrest and according to human rights organizations, e-mails and online activities happen to be monitored.

Repeated reports of threats and harassment of journalists occur. Various administrative measures such as revoked licenses have also been used to restrict media. The majority of the media in the country are linked to the government and those who are not are to a large extent apply self-censorship.

Congo-Brazzaville is ranked 117 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2019. In five years, the country has collapsed nearly 40 places on the list.

The Internet has been shut down on a couple of occasions in connection with the 2016 elections.


Corruption in the country is widespread in almost every part of society, and especially in the exploitation of natural resources, primarily oil. The president’s family controls the state-owned oil company and in 2018 international criminal investigations were underway where the family was suspected of receiving bribes in exchange for favorable oil contracts.

In 2019, Congo-Brazzaville ranked 165 out of 180 in the Transparency International index of perceived corruption. Same position as the year before.

Judicial system and legal security

The independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the new constitution adopted in 2015. However, in practice, the judiciary is subject to political pressure. Opponents are sentenced to severe prison sentences, while the impunity is widespread for regime loyalists. The judiciary is also corrupt, underfunded and under-dimensioned. Customary law is often used in parallel, especially in rural areas, to resolve disputes (see Political system).

The country’s constitution prohibits torture, but reports state that this is common in both police and military.

The conditions in the country’s prisons are substandard. The death penalty was formally abolished in 2015.



Prime Minister’s post abolished

President Sassou-Nguesso re-furnishes the government and abolishes the post of prime minister. Even before, however, the president was in practice the head of government.


Prime Minister’s post abolished

President Sassou-Nguesso re-furnishes the government and abolishes the post of prime minister. Even before, however, the president was in practice the head of government.


Criticism against presidential elections

Sassou-Nguesso wins the presidential election by a large majority. The opposition and a human rights organization criticize him for electoral fraud and abuse of opposition politicians.


Opposition candidates are rejected

The Constitutional Court disapproves four of the opposition candidates in the presidential election for violating different rules. The opposition claims that political motives are behind it.


Ready for investigation against the president

A French court gives the go-ahead for a judicial investigation into embezzlement charges against President Sassou-Nguesso. He is suspected of having bought luxury housing and other things in France for public funds.


National dialogue before elections

The government invites a “national dialogue” before the election, but the FPOC declines no. The dialogue is carried out and the participants conclude that it is too late to organize a census before the election and that the already existing election committee will organize the election.


The opposition calls for census and electoral commission

18 opposition parties gather for a meeting and demand that a census be conducted before the presidential election in order to update the voting lengths. The meeting also requires the government to appoint an independent electoral commission. At the same time, the Alliance formed the Front of the Congolese Opposition Parties (FPOC) in an attempt to invite the government to a united opposition to the election.