DR Congo govt confirms extradition of rebel colonel

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The defense minister of Democratic Republic of Congo, Crispin Atama Thabe, confirmed Friday that former army colonel John Tshibangu will be extradited from Tanzania to face charges of rebellion. “He will be extradited,” Atama Thaba told news agency in a text message. “This is the result of judicial cooperation between our countries.” “Unless the Tanzanian government undertakes to try him and have him serve the requisite sentence,” the minister added in an SMS exchange.

The former colonel is accused of taking up arms against his country, the minister said. He was arrested on Monday at Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam airport. Tshibangu, who deserted to rebel against President Joseph Kabila in 2012, said in a video posted on social media on January 18 that he would “remove” the president within 45 days unless he apologized for a “massacre” of demonstrators on December 31, 2017.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Thursday said that Tshibangu had been “placed in custody and detention” in Tanzania. “We do not endorse this man’s armed struggle, but there’s a risk of physical harm if he is extradited to DR Congo,” said Florent Geel, Africa director of the Paris-based FIDH. “Is impunity what you want to support? Is taking up arms against one’s country not an offence?” Atama Thabe wrote in his exchange with reporters.

Roman Catholic and opposition groups on December 31 defied a ban on street protests to demand that Kabila leave office, prompting a crackdown that left at least nine dead and scores injured, according to UN figures. At least six people died and 49 were wounded under similar circumstances on January 21, according to the United Nations.

Kabila, in power since the assassination of his father Laurent in 2001, is at the helm of a regime widely criticized for repression and corruption in the mineral-rich but strife-plagued nation. The president was due to leave office in December 2016 in line with the constitution, but the next elections have been postponed to December, sparking demonstrations.

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