Congolese trained for coup but posed as rhino rangers, court told

2013-02-08 00:00

PRETORIA — They apparently pretended to be undergoing training as anti-poaching rangers to protect rhinos.

However, the state alleges that 19 Congolese men who appeared in the Pretoria Regional Court yesterday were actually plotting to overthrow DRC President Joseph Kabila.

They were arrested on Tuesday on charges of contravening South Africa’s Foreign Military Assistance Act by engaging in mercenary activities.

The police tactical response unit and court security maintained a heavy presence inside and outside the courtroom, forming a cordon between the packed dock and the public gallery.

As soon as the court adjourned, people in the gallery jumped up with a Congolese flag shouting: “Kabila must go”, “Shoot Kabila” and “F**k off Kabila”.They said they were stunned at the arrests, because the men “are not rebels. Rebels are fighting in the jungle in DRC. These men live in South Africa.”

Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court that the accused were all members of a group called the Union of Nationalists for Renewal (UNR), which has 9 000 members plotting to overthrow the DRC government.

During September 2012, the Hawks received information that the rebels were trying to recruit mercenaries in South Africa.

The police launched a clandestine operation in which agents met UNR members.

During one of these meetings, Kabuka Lugaba Adrian Kilele, one of the alleged co-ordinators of the planned coup, was introduced to the agents.

“They confirmed that they were planning a coup and needed a large amount of weapons and specialised military training,” Abrahams said.

They allegedly offered to pay for this with DRC mineral concessions.

In October 2012, Kilele introduced UNR leader Ettiene Kabila to the agents.

Later, James Kazongo was proposed as the new leader, because Kabila had the same name as the president, and would not be well recieved by the population.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Jack Hillmeyer told Associated Press that Kazongo was a U.S. citizen.

The accused were supposed to start their training on a farm in Modimolle this month, pretending to be an anti-poaching team. “The state has state witnesses, photos, videos and e-mails as evidence,” Abrahams said.

The case was postponed until next week.

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