Alumni in Focus

Combatting Human Trafficking and Cross-Border Crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo



Head of Division and Focal Point Trafficking in Persons, Ministry of the Interior and Security, Democratic Republic of the Congo

After attending the 2019 ILEA Roswell Executive Policy and Development Symposium on Transnational Organized Crime – Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation, Joseph DITUNGA MUANA SAITONDO returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the idea of ​​creating a new investigative unit on cross-border crime. Mr. DITUNGA, inspired by the operations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), proposed a similar idea to the Secretary General and Head of Central Administration. Thus, he was authorized to create this Technical Unit for Investigations and Inquiries (CTEI), under the Ministry of the Interior and Security.

The new unit is responsible for monitoring and investigating all cases related to cross-border crime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local police branches report cases to the provincial police branches, which report cases at the national level, where data is collected and shared with all of the Coordinating Agencies who have jurisdiction to prosecute the offenders.

Throughout his career at the Ministry of Interior and Security of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. DITUNGA has worked to protect vulnerable populations. In 2004, he served as Head of Office in charge of the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), from which he benefited from training in international humanitarian law in Geneva, in the coordination and management of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2010 he was appointed Delegate of his Ministry, to the National Committee of the group of permanent experts on regional integration. He is in charge of political affairs and public security his country with international and regional organizations such as the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In 2016, he officially became the SADC focal point and organized, under the authority of his ministry, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Fight against Human Trafficking, which he headed until April 2019. This paved the way for him to receive regional training in Combatting Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling, with SADC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) regional office. He also received training in human rights at international borders, led by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center (UNCCT) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

Back in his country, Mr. DITUNGA obtained authorization to organize a bilateral workshop for the monitoring of trafficking along borders shared with Angola. In 2018, with technical support from UNODC, he took the initiative to prepare the preliminary draft law on combatting human trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which, at the end of a workshop, was endorsed by the Agency for Prevention and Control Trafficking in Persons (APLTP), the agency created in April 2019 by the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In this year’s U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, the Democratic Republic of the Congo received a “Tier 2 Watch List” ranking, marking a notable improvement from the "Tier 3" ranking it has received since 2017. The 2020 report notes achievements in increasing investigations and prosecutions of trafficking cases, specifically on sex trafficking and forced labor. The government also improved human trafficking reporting, as highlighted by the progress reports on human trafficking, submitted quarterly to the President.

The COVID-19 crisis has intensified the need for police and immigration services under the authority of the Ministry of Interior and Security to collaborate in the fight against transnational criminal organizations that look for opportunities to take advantage of uncertain situations and vulnerable populations. Mr. DITUNGA noted, "With the coronavirus pandemic which has shocked the whole world, in our country we have seen the resurgence of cases linked to cross-border crime, in particular human trafficking and the exploitation of children." Throughout the pandemic, CTEI has worked with the COVID-19 response team to sensitize local communities on the threats of child exploitation and trafficking. A CTEI investigation carried out during this COVID-19 has already led to the arrest of an individual suspected of participating in a case of kidnapping and cross-border trafficking.

Mr. DITUNGA also serves as a trainer of stakeholders and other front-line responders involved in the fight against the trafficking of persons and the smuggling of migrants by the IOM Regional Office. CTEI allows the Ministry of the Interior and Security to play an important role within the various technical committees responsible for coordinating activities related to cross-border crime.

ILEA Roswell commends Mr. DITUNGA for his leadership and initiative in contributing to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s strategy for combatting human trafficking and the transnational criminal organizations that prey on society’s most vulnerable.