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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Congo (Kinshasa): Tshisekedi Detention

Congo (Kinshasa): Tshisekedi Arrest
Date distributed (ymd): 980219
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
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

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Alert Inititated by David Aronson, of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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 (information follows.)


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:

David Aronson
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1779 Mass. Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 332-0945 (fax)
daronson@ceip.org


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 political stability.

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.

Sincerely,

Signed:

Your name:
Your Affiliation:
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.

Sincerely,

Signed:

Your name:
Your Affiliation:
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, D.C.


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: irin@dha.unon.org

IRIN Update No. 354 for Central and Eastern Africa (Friday 13 February 1998)

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 this weekend.

IRIN Update No. 355 for Central and Eastern Africa (Saturday-Monday 14-16 February 1998)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Tshisekedi flown home, media says whereabouts unknown

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 1998)

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," he added.


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 and development.

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 of war.
  • 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.


URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs98/cong9802.php