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DR Congo12 January 2004

Journalist receives death threats from political leaders in eastern DRC

Nicaise Kibel’Bel Oka, publication director of the weekly "Les Coulisses", has received several death threats recently. The threats are being taken very seriously, as they follow the publication of an article in which he accused leaders of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-Mouvement de libération, RCD-ML) of creating insecurity in the country’s northeastern region in order to cement their power. Reporters Without Borders called on the government to intercede with local political leaders and urge them to protect the journalist.

"We are very worried about Kibel’Bel Oka’s situation. These death threats must be taken very seriously, as security forces act with utter impunity in this part of the country. The government must intervene in this matter without delay in order to quieten down the situation," said Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard.

"Several of the senior civilian and military officials who are threatening the journalist are members of the RCD-ML, one of the government forces’ main parties," noted Reporters Without Borders. "What’s more, RCD-ML President Mbusa Nyamwisi is also minister of regional cooperation. We ask him, along with the interior and information ministers, to do everything in their power to protect Kibel’Bel Oka, ensure that the threats against him stop, and allow him to continue his journalistic work without obstruction. We will hold them responsible should anything happen to him," Reporters Without Borders added.

Kibel’Bel Oka published an investigative report in issue 134 of the weekly "Les Coulisses" concerning violent clashes that took place in the Beni region (northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo) in December 2003. Official statements made at the time said that government troops had been attacked by Ugandan rebels, causing two deaths and serious injuries to two others. The investigative piece published by "Les Coulisses", however, claimed that the so-called rebels were in fact being used by the RCD-ML to manufacture a climate of terror that would allow local leaders to maintain a strong military presence in the region.

Reporters Without Borders further noted that a journalist has been missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 26 June. Acquitté Kisembo, a Bunia-based Agence France-Presse (AFP) contributor, in the northeastern corner of the DRC, was abducted by a group of militiamen while he was interviewing civilians. The militiamen reportedly threatened him because of his work with foreign media, particularly AFP. Kisembo has not been heard from since. Some sources believe that he may have been abducted and killed by men operating under Thomas Lubanga’s leadership. Lubanga heads the Union of Congolese Patriots (Union des patriotes congolais, UPC) group.

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