Rebecca Kabugho is a rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was named the youngest prisoner of conscience in the world. At age 19, she joined the non-violent movement Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA), which translates to “Fight for Change” and calls for greater respect of democracy, fundamental freedoms, and the Constitution in the DRC.
Kabugho has become one of the main activists of LUCHA and a source of inspiration for many young women who have decided to fight for change in Congo. She has co-organized more than 150 peaceful protests to demand from the political and administrative authorities access to clean water, paved roads, free education, and to improve the living conditions of the population.
Kabugho was arrested for the first time in March 2015 during a demonstration to demand the release of activists who had been detained by the Agence Nationale de Renseignments, the Congolese national intelligence agency. They were planning a demonstration to call on former President Joseph Kabila to respect the Constitution and hold elections at the end of his term. At the time, international media described Kabugho as the youngest political prisoner in the world. She was arrested more than a dozen other times during peaceful protests and tortured by police and state security services that were against LUCHA’s activism.
Kabugho graduated in July 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from the Free University of the Great Lakes Countries in Goma. Today, she is the coordinator of a non-profit she created after her incarceration, TENDO, which works with prisoners, especially women. Kabugho received the International Women of Courage Award in 2017 and continues to promote human rights, democracy, and a more just society.