Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested at least 26 foreign nationals from South Africa, the United States, and Nigeria, saying they are suspected of being involved in a coup plot. The events come amid preparations for the country's first elections in nearly four decades.
DRC officials say the men are being held on charges of planning to destabilize the country. The officials say that seditious documents were found in the men's apartments and that they are being questioned by intelligence officers.
But government spokesman Henri Sakanyi told South African national radio he did not expect the developments would negatively affect preparations for the country's presidential and general elections. Congo's first democratic elections in 40 years are scheduled for the end of July.
"I [do not] think [it will have] any impact because we are preparing elections freely and peacefully because our people wait for these elections for 40 years and now our spirit is in this road to the election," said Mr. Sakanyi. "It is very important for us, we need to rebuild out country but the first step must be free and fair elections. We must be a normal country, in central Africa."
The South African government says its embassy in Kinshasa has received official notification from the DRC government that the group includes 19 South African passport holders, along with four Americans and three Nigerians.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said that three of the South Africans are employed as translators by Mirabulis, a mining company, and that 16 were employees of a South African company, Omega Risk Solutions.
Omega Chief Executive Christo Roelofse told local media that his company provides security services at a cement factory. In addition he said, Omega is contracted to the country's transport department to train security personnel, and provide integrated security systems for the country's ports, which are being upgraded.
Roelofse said that recently Omega was contracted to assist an American company, which is providing protection services to Oscar Kashala, a presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
Congo officials said some of the men had recently come from Iraq. Omega Risk Solutions also provides security services in several other countries, including Iraq.