Congo chief prosecutor orders arrest of presidential runner-up after more violence

[JURIST] The chief prosecutor of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] issued an arrest warrant Friday for Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; BBC profile], a former warlord turned senator, whose private militia clashed with government security forces on Thursday. Bemba was elected to the Senate after losing a run-off presidential election [JURIST report] to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile], who in December became the first freely-elected president of the DRC since 1960. After the election, his private militia force led a violent campaign against government troops until the DRC Supreme Court rejected his election challenge [JURIST report]. In the process, 30 people were killed and Bemba's supporters set fire to the Supreme Court [JURIST reports]. The fighting renewed on Thursday when gunfire between Bemba's militia and state troops damaged the embassy of Zimbabwe, a local radio station and several restaurants.

Bemba is presently a refugee in the South African embassy and has ordered his militia to put down its arms. He claims that Kinshasha security forces initiated the attacks against him, but he has not yet applied for asylum from the embassy. The charges against Bemba include high treason, and Chief Prosecutor Tsaimanga Mukenda has emphasized that neither Bemba's status as senator nor his refuge in the embassy will render him immune. Bemba refuses to surrender, and South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad has announced plans to send an envoy to the DRC to help negotiate a cease-fire. AP has more.

 

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