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Human Rights Activist Arrested in Congo

By Fid Thompson
29 September 2009

A human rights activist and former presidential candidate has been arrested by the Congolese government for allegedly trying to foment rebellion in the troubled eastern province of the vast African nation. Human rights campaigners have condemned the arrest.

The government issued a statement saying human rights activist Firmin Yangabi was arrested last Wednesday by military police as he tried to organize an arms shipment from the capital Kinshasa to the eastern town of Kisangani.

Yangabi, a candidate for Congo's 2006 presidential elections, is accused of trying to provoke insurrection in the country's volatile eastern province.

Lambert Mende, spokesman for the Congolese government, says military police arrested Firmin Yangabi, president of the human rights group Peace on Earth, last Wednesday. He says Yangabi was moving a shipment of weapons from Kinshasha to Kisangani with the aim of fomenting rebellion in the east of the country.

Yangabi was brought to Kinshasa on Sunday where he will stand before a military tribunal. Mende did not comment on the arms or the groups involved, saying the case is a matter for the justice system.

On 24 July, the human rights activist Golden Misabiko was arrested and imprisoned for questioning mining practices at the Shinkolobwe uranium mine in the southern Katanga province. Misabiko was charged with 'threatening state security' for publishing a report denouncing a government deal with French nuclear power firm Areva.

A 2004 United Nations assessment said the Shinkolobwe mine should remain closed due to a high risk of mine collapses and potential exposure to radiation.

Mende says human rights groups are using wordy phraseology to cover up their criminal activities. He says Yangabi's case is similar to the Shinkolobwe mine case where human rights groups published false reports about the government.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton asked President Joseph Kabila about the Misabiko arrest during her visit to the eastern city of Goma in August. Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe-Mwamba defended Kinshasa's human rights record as a rare example in Africa where there is liberty and freedom of the press.

The International human rights group, Global Witness, have condemned the arrests and called for all charges to be dropped.

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