While the UN, South Africa and its 12 SADC counterparts, and the African Union are working hard behind the scenes to ‘save’ the Democratic Republic of Congo from being further raped, looted and massacred by Rwanda and Uganda-backed rebels, at home the regime of President Joseph Kabila is experiencing what many observers call a critical phase of paranoia.
Human rights groups are accusing the Kinshasa regime of illegal arrests, lengthy detention in undisclosed locations, torture, acts of intimidation, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings.
Opposition political parties members and supporters, university lecturers, students and human rights activists, journalists, high-ranking military officers, members of NGOs and anyone suspected of ‘plotting’ with the ‘enemy’ to overthrow the government have become potential targets for security forces and intelligence agencies.
The latest casualty of this ‘paranoid’ campaign is army Captain Desiré Kobo Lisambo (47), who was reportedly arrested by intelligence services agents on 11 February 2013 at 2pm, and taken to an undisclosed location where he has since been held incommunicado.
The well-respected Afrikarabia blog this week quoted the Committee of Observers for Human Rights (CODHO) as saying that it has hard evidence that Lisambo is being held with his cousin Jean Kongbu, a civilian.
Lisambo is a Ngbandi, the same ethnic group as former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and hails from Equateur, the DRC northern province bordering the Central African Republic and Congo-Brazzaville.
Lisambo, a former high-ranking military officer of the Zairean army, is accused of being a die-hard supporter of Mobutu, according to CODHO, which is said to be ‘very concerned’ about the physical and psychological health of the detainees.
Former members and supporters of Mobutu, who mostly hail from the Ngbandi ethnic group and never left the country, are still feared by the regime of Kabila, and are constantly harassed and detained by security forces and intelligence agencies, who suspect them of plotting to overthrow the government.
In 1997, former soldiers of the Mobutu-controlled army took up arms and fought deadly battles against the Congolese army in the Equateur province, forcing thousands of civilians to flee to Congo-Brazzaville.
Tensions remain high in the capital Kinshasa, and across the whole country, even if an agreement to ‘stabilise’ the mineral-rich nation was signed on Sunday in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, in a ceremony graced by UN S-G Ban-Ki-Moon and African leaders of 11 countries, including South Africa and Rwanda.
The agreement will see more than 2500 troops from SADC and UN drones deployed in the east to watch over armed rebel groups.
*Photo by Opensocietyfoundations.org