Police ‘kidnap’ Catholic priest in DR Congo — witnesses

In this file photo, riot policemen fire tear gas to disperse Catholic priest and demonstrators during a protest against President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.(Reuters)
Updated 03 February 2018

Police ‘kidnap’ Catholic priest in DR Congo — witnesses

KINSHASA: Police “kidnapped” a Catholic priest Saturday after mass in Kinshasa, witnesses said, amid spiralling tensions between the church and the DR Congo’s government over the president’s refusal to step down.
“Father Sebastien was taken away by police just after morning mass,” a nun of the Saint-Robert parish told AFP in N’sele on the eastern outskirts of the capital.
A police vehicle drew up outside the church, officers jumped out and “started to beat the priest,” said another nun who had also witnessed the incident.
“They threw him in the jeep and drove off with him,” she said, adding that an unidentified man “filmed the priest” on his mobile phone during mass.
Police refused to comment on the incident when contacted by AFP.
Priest Sebastien Yebo has worked for the parish since August 2017.
The incident comes after a deadly crackdown by the government on Catholic-organized protests against President Joseph Kabila.
At least 15 people have been killed in clashes with security forces at rallies on December 31 and January 21, according to the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO.
Kabila, 46, has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticized for corruption, repression and incompetence.
His constitutional term in office expired in December 2016 but he has stayed on, stoking a bloody spiral of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Under a deal brokered by the powerful Catholic Church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017.
The authorities then postponed the election until December 23 this year, citing what they said were logistical problems in preparing for the vote.
The delay, coupled with the mounting violence, has placed Kabila on collision course with the church, which has a prominent role in the DR Congo due to its educational and social care work.


No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

Updated 22 August 2019

No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

  • Thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017
  • The refugees asked Myanmar authorities to guarantee their safety and citizenship
TEKNAF, Bangladesh: A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar appeared Thursday to fall flat, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.
“We have been waiting since 9:00 am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation,” Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp, told AFP after over an hour of waiting.
“Nobody has yet turned up.”
Some 740,000 of the long-oppressed mostly Muslim Rohingya minority fled a military offensive in 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining 200,000 already in Bangladesh.
Demanding that Buddhist-majority Myanmar guarantee their safety and citizenship, only a handful have returned from the vast camps in southeast Bangladesh where they have now lived for two years.
The latest repatriation attempt — a previous push failed in November — follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for “return.”
But on Wednesday, several Rohingya refugees whose names were listed told AFP that said they did not want to return unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.
“It is not safe to return to Myanmar,” one of them, Nur Islam, told AFP.
Officials from the UN and Bangladesh’s refugee commission have also been interviewing Rohingya families in the settlements to find out if they wanted to return.
“We have yet to get consent from any refugee family,” a UN official said Wednesday.
Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.
They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.
Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said they were “fully prepared” for the repatriation with security being tightened across the refugee settlements to prevent any violence or protests.
Officials said they would wait for a few more hours before deciding whether to postpone the repatriation move.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be “voluntary.”
“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue on Wednesday.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.