Photo: Hans Jørgen Brun
Laureate 2008

Bulambo Lembelembe Josué

Bringing hope for the victims of war

The 2008 Rafto Prize was awarded to Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué (1960) for his dedicated struggle to end the plight of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His work brings hope for peace, reconciliation and human dignity to people who have suffered from the deadliest conflict since World War II.

The most frequent targets of this hidden war are women. In the last ten years in DRC, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, many in excessively brutal gang rapes. Pastor Bulambo’s message is clear and simple:

“We can no longer accept that our daughters, our sisters and our wives are raped. It should be possible for women to be safe. It is our responsibility to make life safe.”

Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué

The DRC faces a grave humanitarian crisis resulting from what has become known as the First African World War. The war in the Congo is significantly linked to the Rwandan genocide. Many African countries and countless militia groups are involved. Since 1998 more than 5 million people, mainly civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.

Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe serves as Vice President of the Protestant Council of Churches, the Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC), in the DRC’s South Kivu province. His prominence as a church leader has allowed him to preach democratic ideals in an effort to quell rising tensions between ethnic groups in the region. Bulambo Lembelembe Josué is also the Vice President of Héritiers de la Justice, a human rights organisation he helped to establish in 1991. The organisation works to raise awareness of human rights and assist victims of human rights abuses. Bulambo stresses that no amnesty should be given to perpetrators of sexual violence.

Since 2006 Josué’s main efforts have been directed at organising the project Paix et Réconciliation, which works to disarm, demobilise and repatriate soldiers and civilians associated with the Hutu militia Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, FDLR, which took part in the genocide and then fled Rwanda. Making use of the network of congregations belonging to the ECC, this project has succeeded in motivating around a quarter of the 10 000 militia disarmed and repatriated by the UN Stabilisation Mission, MONUSCO, and securing the return of approximately 23 000 civilian refugees. This very dangerous and difficult work has been carried out with only a small fraction of the funding provided by the UN.

Josué is still working for peace and reconciliation and continues to help the most vulnerable victims of war in a largely failed state.

Other laureates

Nettsak DCIP
Laureate 2023

Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP)

Defending the rights of children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Nodjigoto Charbonnel LOWRES
Laureate 2022

Nodjigoto Charbonnel

Fighting torture and defending the human rights of torture survivors

Rafto Fotografering 2021 211112 3289 Foto Hans Jørgen Brun Edit copy
Laureate 2021

Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Seeking justice behind the numbers

Ecrf Square
Laureate 2020

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

Bravely resisting Egypt´s state of fear

Laureate 2019 Rouba Mhaissen
Laureate 2019

Rouba Mhaissen

Defending the human rights of people living as refugees

Facebook Adam
Laureate 2018

Ombudsman Adam Bodnar

Defending minorities rights and judicial independence

Ahangar Og Parvez Raftoprize 2017 Hjb
Laureate 2017

Parveena Ahangar & Parvez Imroz

Decades of campaigning for human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir

Hjb Rafto Yanar Mohammed Web
Laureate 2016

Yanar Mohammed

Defender of women's rights in war-torn Iraq

Laureate 2015

Padre Melo

A fearless voice in a violent country

Pavel Chikov
Laureate 2014

Agora - Pavel Chikov

Defender of the rule of law in Russia

Laureate 2013

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

The inconvenient demand for human rights in the Gulf

2012 Nnimmo Bassey © Hans Jørgen Brun
Laureate 2012

Nnimmo Bassey

Defender of victims of climate change

Laureate 2011

Sexual Minorities Uganda

Defender of LGBTI rights

Laureate 2010

José Raúl Vera López

Defender of the vulnerable and the rejected

malahat nasibova
Laureate 2009

Malahat Nasibova

The brave voice of Nakhchivan

ncdhr dalit
Laureate 2007

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights

Defenders of the downtrodden

Thich Quang Do Photo Ibib Kuttet
Laureate 2006

Thích Quảng Độ

Peaceful oppositon against the communist regime

lidia yusupova chechnya
Laureate 2005

Lidia Yusupova

Defender of the forgotten victims of the war in Chechnya

Rebiya Kadeer
Laureate 2004

Rebiya Kadeer

Defender of the repressed Uyghurs

Paulos Tesfagiorgis
Laureate 2003

Paulos Tesfagiorgis

Lifelong work for democracy in Eritrea

sidi mohammed daddach
Laureate 2002

Sidi Mohammed Daddach

The Sahrawi people's struggle for self determination

Shirin Ebadi
Laureate 2001

Shirin Ebadi

Rights for women and children under the Islamic regime

Laureate 2000

Kim Dae-jung

Giving hope of re-conciliation with North Korea

Gennady Grushevoy
Laureate 1999

Gennady Grushevoy

Protecting the victims of the Chernobyl disaster

ECPAT logo
Laureate 1998


Committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation of children

Ian Hancock
Laureate 1997

Ian Hancock

Advocate for the rights and dignity of the Romani

1996 palermo anno uno logo 166x221
Laureate 1996

Palermo Anno Uno

Standing up against the Mafia and organized crime

1995 soldiers mothers logo 166x221
Laureate 1995

Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia

Working for peace on behalf of those forced to wage war

1994-leyla zana
Laureate 1994

Leyla Zana

Peaceful struggle for the human rights of the Kurdish people

Laureate 1993

José Ramos-Horta

Promoting independence for the people of East Timor

Laureate 1992

Preah Maha Ghosananda

Leading role in reconciling a country torn by war

Laureate 1991

Yelena Bonner

Lifelong work for political and religious freedom in the Soviet Union

aung san suu kyi
Laureate 1990

Aung San Suu Kyi

Leading the struggle for democracy in Burma

Laureate 1989

Doina Cornea

Writing for freedom in a communist dictatorship

peter molnar
Laureate 1989

FIDESZ - Péter Molnár

Founders of a democratic Hungary

trivimi velliste estonia-2
Laureate 1988

Trivimi Velliste

Reviving the past to liberate the future

Laureate 1987

Jiří Hájek

Foreign Affairs Minister of the Prague Spring and brave spokesperson for civil rights