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Congo (Kinshasa): Tshisekedi Detention
Congo (Kinshasa): Tshisekedi Arrest
Date distributed (ymd): 980219
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +US policy focus+
This posting contains several documents concerning the arrest on February
12 of Congo (Kinshasa) opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Additional
information and updates on Congo (Kinshasa) and the region are regularly
available at http://www.reliefweb.int
and at http://www.africanews.org/central
Alert Inititated by David Aronson, of Carnegie Endowment for International
The following alert is for individuals to sign letters going to U.S.
Secretary of State Albright and Democratic Republic of Congo President
Kabila regarding the recent arrest of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi, widely acknowledged
as Congo's leading opposition figure, and the subsequent arrest of a still
undetermined number of other opposition figures. For more information,
contact David Aronson at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Following are two letters protesting the imprisonment of Etienne Tshisekedi,
the DRC's leading opposition figures. One is directed to Madeleine Albright,
the second, to Laurent Kabila.
Initial signatories are Salih Booker, of the Council on Foreign Relations,
Steve Weissman, of Public Citizen, and David Aronson, of the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace. The standard disclaimer applies: The views expressed
in the letters are those of these individuals, and not of the organizations
with which they are affiliated.
If you are able to sign these petitions, either in your own capacity
or as a member of an organization, please return with the relevant information
as soon as possible.
Please also distribute this email as widely as possible through your
email networks and listservers.
You may fax or email your responses to:
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1779 Mass. Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-0945 (fax)
February 13, 1998
The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
As organizations and individuals long concerned about political developments
in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), we are writing to
express our grave concern about the recent arrest of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi,
widely acknowledged as Congo's leading opposition figure, and the subsequent
arrest of a still undetermined number of other opposition figures.
As you know, Mr. Tshisekedi's arrest came just two days after he met
with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, President Clinton's Special Envoy for
Democracy in Africa, and represents a serious setback in that country's
anticipated transition to democratic rule. It may, furthermore, signal
the beginning of a more sustained crackdown on political opposition within
that country, with potentially serious implications for human rights and
We understand that you have already personally expressed your deep concern
about these developments to President Kabila; we respectfully urge you
to continue to use the full weight of U.S. influence to secure the immediate
release of Mr. Tshisekedi, as well as of other political prisoners illegally
incarcerated by President Laurent Kabila. We also ask that you place urgent
priority on persuading Mr. Kabila to promptly lift the ban on political
activity within the DRC.
We would be grateful for any information you could provide us about
U.S. diplomatic interventions on this matter.
Affiliation for identification purposes only? ____ Yes ____ No
cc. Sandy Berger, Asst. to the President on National Security; Susan
Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Ambassador William
Richardson, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Rep. Benjamin
Gilman, Chairman, House International Relations Committee; Rep. Lee Hamilton,
Ranking Minority Member, House International Relations Committee; Rep.
Ed Royce, Chairman, Africa Subcommittee, House International Relations
Committee; Rep. Robert Menendez, Ranking Minority Member, Africa Subcommittee,
House International Relations Committee; Rep. Christopher Smith, Chairman,
International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, House International
Relations Committee; Rep. Tom Lantos, Ranking Minority Member, International
Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, House International Relations
Committee; Rep. Sonny Callahan, Chairman, Foreign Operations Subcommittee,
House Appropriations Committee; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Ranking Minority Member,
Foreign Operations Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee; Senator
John Ashcroft, Chairman, Africa Subcommittee, Senate Foreign Relations
Committee; Senator Russell Feingold, Ranking Minority Member, Africa Subcommittee,
Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Mitch McConnell, Chair, Senate
Foreign Relations Subcommittee, Senate Appropriations Committee; Senator
Patrick Leahy, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee,
Senate Appropriations Committee
February 13, 1998
Honorable Laurent D. Kabila
President, Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa, DRC
Dear President Kabila:
As organizations and individuals concerned about the Democratic Republic
of Congo, we write to express our grave concern about the recent arrest
of Mr. Etienne Tshisekedi and an undetermined number of his supporters.
As you know, Mr. Tshisekedi was arrested without due process at his
house in Limete, Kinshasa, on the night of February 12, 1998, and has been
sent under armed guard to his natal village outside Mbuji Mayi. This action,
reminiscent of strategies used by former President Mobutu against Tshisekedi
and other political activists, was reportedly undertaken because of his
violation of the ban against political activity. This ban is contrary to
your stated support of democracy and should be lifted at once.
We respectfully urge you to immediately release Mr. Tshisekedi and other
political prisoners, and to fully engage in the process of democratization
to which you have given your commitment.
Affiliation for identification purposes only? ____ Yes ____ No
cc. Ambassador Andre Kapanga, DRC Permanent Representative to the United
Nations; Mr. Etienne Mukendi, Deputy Chief of Mission, DRC Embassy, Washington,
Excerpts from UN IRIN Updates
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147; Fax: +254 2 622129; e-mail: email@example.com
IRIN Update No. 354 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 13 February
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Etienne Tshisekedi arrested
Soldiers arrested long-time Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi
at his house last night (Thursday), and today (Friday) troops surrounded
the offices of his party, the Union pour la democratie et le progres social
(UDPS), news agencies reported. The UDPS, which along with all Congolese
political parties is currently banned, is set to mark its 16th anniversary
IRIN Update No. 355 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday
14-16 February 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tshisekedi flown home, media says
The government said arrested opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was
flown to his home village in the centre of Democratic Republic of the Congo
on Friday to work on the land, but newspaper reports in Kinshasa today
(Monday) said he had not arrived and his whereabouts were unknown. All
the main newspapers in Kinshasa ran headlines saying Tshisekedi had still
not arrived in Kabeya-Kamwanga. 'Le Potentiel' reported he was still somewhere
in Kinshasa. In an open letter to the press, Tshisekedi's wife said that
according to information she had received her husband was in Kinshasa and
"has been tortured". Meanwhile, residents reported Kinshasa was
buzzing with rumours that other opposition leaders who met US special envoy
Jesse Jackson last week may also soon be arrested.
UDPS supporters demonstrate in Brussels
Meanwhile, supporters of his party, the Union pour la democratie et
le progres social (UDPS), began a sit-in outside the US embassy in Brussels
to protest his arrest. The government maintains the veteran opposition
leader was arrested for violating a "ban on party political activities",
but gave no other details. The arrest last Thursday took place after Tshisekedi
met with Jackson, US President Bill Clinton's special envoy for democracy
in Africa. DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila had earlier declined to
meet Jackson, leading to intense speculation the meeting with Jackson was
the reason for the opposition leader's detention.
DRC Agriculture Minister Mawampanga Mwana Nanga told a news conference
in Kinshasa on Friday the government wished to use the veteran opposition
leader's skills as a "leader of men" to contribute to the nutritional
security of the region. "The compatriot E. Tshisekedi was flown aboard
a jet chartered by the government on Friday to the commune of Kabeya-Kamwanga
with a large quantity of seeds of corn, soya, peanut, rice and a motor-cultivator,"
he said. Interior Minister Gaetan Kakudji said in a statement read on state
television that Tshisekedi had persistently broken a ban on party politics,
but gave no other details.
IRIN Update No. 357 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 18 February
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Kabila says peace precondition for elections
DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila has rejected pressure to hold elections
until "peace prevails". Speaking on state-controlled television
on Monday, Kabila said the country was awash with guns, "that is why
we have decided to ban political activities, so that people don't shoot
at one another." In the broadcast, monitored by the BBC, Kabila said
a census would be held by August of this year and a referendum on a draft
constitution by October. Elections would then follow, but he set no date.
Kabila defended his decision to send opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi
to his home village, saying he was "happy" there. "When
political activities kick off just after the transitional period ... he
can come back and resume his political activities if he so desires,"
Statement by Jesse Jackson
as released by the US Department of State (http://www.state.gov)
U.S. Wants To See DROC Transition Succeed, Jackson Says
February 18, 1998
Washington - Following is the text of Jackson's remarks on February
11 before departing Kinshasa for Monrovia:
I came to meet a wide spectrum of Congolese society, including the government,
political parties, and civil society. Our government, the U.N., and international
agencies have come to help Congo in the journey from the long night of
despair, and in the transition from rebellion and protest to governance;
from exclusion to inclusion; from dictatorship and despotism to democracy
I had useful meetings with representatives of civil society and political
leaders, including Etienne Tshisekedi, Antoine Gizenga, and Andre Boboliko.
They expressed to me their desire to play a constructive role in the political
process and the reconstruction of the country. They stressed that the democratic
process began in 1990 with opposition to Mobutu. I am pleased that civil
society remains vibrant in the Congo, and that alternative political views
are readily expressed, including through an active free press.
Today's political and civil society leaders are not natural opponents
of the new government; instead they share many of the same goals.
Good governance must be measured by:
- a will for reconciliation, reconstruction, and the healing of wounds
- tolerance, the inclusion of differing views, and the cessation of violence...
- the development of democratic institutions.
- respect for human rights and the rule of law.
- an economic system that provides growth and opportunity.
I had very much wanted to discuss these and other issues with President
Kabila and Foreign Minister Karaha during this visit. I am disappointed
that it was not possible to arrange these meetings.
I would have used our time to underscore to the president and foreign
minister the continued, strong U.S. commitment to engagement in the Congo.
The Congo is in the midst of a long and difficult transition and it is
in the interest of the United States and, indeed, the entire international
community, for this effort to succeed.
I would have shared some of my impressions of the Congo -- of the progress
made to date and of the challenges still ahead. I am encouraged, for example,
by the relative inclusiveness of the Cabinet, and by the success of the
government in attracting many talented individuals to public service. I
am also pleased by the initial progress this week made by the U.N. human
rights team with efforts to resume its field investigation in Mbandaka.
On the other hand, I would also have highlighted some areas of continued
concern -- in particular, the need to end the ban on political party activities,
to halt trial of civilians by military courts, and to cease to constrain
the activities of political opponents. These are uncomfortable topics,
but they must be faced squarely by any Congolese genuinely committed to
reform. I would also have urged the government to reach out more to other
sectors -- including political parties and the civil society -- in the
transition from despotism to democracy.
Although my time was short and I was unable to see everyone I had hoped
to, this trip was nonetheless illuminating for me. I return to the United
States more firmly convinced than ever of our interests in the Congo, of
the imperative of a successful political and economic transition, and of
the value of continued U.S. efforts to support the transition process.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington
Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate
in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa,
by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and
analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.