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Congolese Official Denies Targeting Rights Activists

A Congolese government official said Thursday the Kabila government has no deliberate policy to cause harm or to intimidate human rights activists operating in the country. This comes after the United Nations issued a report suggesting that Congolese security agents have been complicit in threatening the lives of human rights campaigners.

The Joseph Kabila government says it will soon begin an investigation to address concerns raised in the report.

Kikaya Bin Karubi, a member of parliament and the Congolese ambassador-designate to the United Kingdom, told VOA that Kinshasa wants to guarantee that the country is open to operations by rights groups.

"We are a post-conflict country and as a matter of fact, there are still areas of the country where fighting is still going on and it may be possible that soldiers or combatants in this area are still nervous with the people like human rights reporters," he said.

Karubi admits that human rights activists could have been intimidated due to a rebel insurgency still raging in parts of the country.

"It may happen that in some instances these human rights campaigners have been threatened," he said.

Karubi said the Kinshasa government has no interest in intimidating local or international human rights practitioners in the country.

"What does not exist is a deliberate government policy to threaten or to annoy or to intimidate human rights campaigners," he said.

He said Kinshasa is aware of the contributions of human rights activists in any democracy.

"The president (Joseph Kabila) has said time and again that the country is moving definitely towards democracy and people like human rights campaigners are welcome to work freely in the Democratic Republic of Congo," he said.

Asked about Kinshasa's plans to address concerns raised by the U.N report, Karubi said there would soon be an inquiry to ascertain the truth of the report and to punish those who are found to be complicit in the attacks or intimidation of human rights campaigners.

"If there are instances where people who work for the government have been threatening or intimidating human rights activists in the country, there will be an investigation, and those who will be found guilty will be punished. I can assure you of that," Karubi said.

He said Kinshasa has been urging both local and international human rights activists to seek protection from the interior ministry in parts of the country where there are clashes between government forces and rebel insurgents.