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Congo Investigates Opposition Leader’s ‘Treasonous’ Statements

  • Peter Clottey

Opposition supporters demonstrate in front of the post office in Kinshasa, October 13, 2011.

Opposition supporters demonstrate in front of the post office in Kinshasa, October 13, 2011.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Justice Ministry has launched an investigation into “treasonous” pronouncements allegedly made by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi in the run-up to the November 28 general election.

Information Minister Lambert Mende condemned the opposition leader’s statements as irresponsible, which he said could undermine the country’s stability ahead of the vote.

In a live television broadcast Tshisekedi issued a 48-hour ultimatum, which expires Tuesday, urging people to release opposition prisoners saying “as president, I’m ordering prison guards not to resist.”

“This is a criminal offense when you claim to be the head of state [outside] the constitution way and elections,” said Mende. “It is also a criminal offense to call [on] Congolese to commit violence, to rape women, to kill policemen and members of other parties.”

The government has closed down RLTV, which aired the live interview with Tshisekedi, pending investigation by the Justice Ministry, the country’s media regulator as well as the Independent Electoral Commission.

“We gave the case to the Justice [Ministry] and to the regulatory authority to decide whether this station can be allowed to continue [broadcasting] because we are not ready to experience a name-calling radio here in Congo after what Rwandese experienced in 1994,” said Mende.

Many observers see Tshisekedi as one of the two main opposition candidates that could pose significant challenge to President Joseph Kabila for the presidency.

Some political analysts say the Tshisekedi statements amount to a “political suicide.”

Mende said the electoral body should ascertain whether Tshisekedi broke the electoral law since official campaigning began October 28.

“We do ask the electoral commission to act toward this candidate who is abusing the electoral process…and the judiciary must do its work,” Mende said. “This [Mr. Tshisekedi’s statements] do not give to anyone the permission to breach the law, the permission to bring us to violence. We have experienced violence in this country and we won’t allow anybody to bring us back to these years of war in this country.”

Mende also warned citizens that the security agencies will enforce the law ahead of the elections.

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