DRC frees US diplomat but detains African activists

2015-03-16 14:15

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Kinshasa - A US diplomat arrested at a pro-democracy meeting in Democratic Republic of Congo has been freed but the African activists detained alongside him remain in custody, government said on Monday.

Security forces made around 40 arrests when they broke up a press conference in Kinshasa attended by activists, journalists and musicians, including Senegalese and Burkinabe youth leaders visiting Congolese counterparts.

The arrests come at a sensitive time in DRC’s politics with President Joseph Kabila due to step down next year but critics fear his camp is looking for ways to allow him to stay in power.

"He was returned to the embassy late last night," Information Minister Lambert Mende said, referring to Kevin Sturr, a USAID official with the democracy and good governance programme in DRC.

Public prosecutor

"There are the three Senegalese and the Burkinabe and their Congolese accomplices who continue to be questioned," Mende added. "Each will have his fate...Either they will be released or put at the disposition of the public prosecutor."

The meeting in Kinshasa was being organised by a Congolese movement called Filimbi, which works to encourage youth to engage in politics.

The foreign activists arrested included Fadel Barro, a member of the Senegalese collective of journalists and hip-hop artists "Y en a Marre", which helped organise protests against former President Abdoulaye Wade's bid for a third term in 2012.

A member of Burkina Faso's grassroots political group "Balai Citoyen", which played a leading role in protests that toppled long-time President Blaise Compaore last year, was also detained.

Mende said on Sunday that DRC’s intelligence services believed the press conference - billed as an exchange between African civil society organisations - was in fact a project organised by "instructors in insurrection".

Read more on:    joseph kabila  |  drc  |  central africa

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