I received an email from my friend and an active member of CongoSwim and the LOPC Congo Team, Rena Meyers-Dahlkamp, with the following-
Our friend and brother Ben is in grave danger. Our request for action today is more urgent than others because of our personal, 3 year partnership with Ben Kabamba’s organization in Congo and the life threatening nature of his situation. Some of you had the honor of meeting Ben during his visit just a few weeks ago when he was in the US for the UN youth conference and spoke at our church, various universities and the Priority Africa Network office. He is a brave friend who has committed his life to working for peace in the DRC.
Ben is now being hunted by the Congolese military after a US diplomat and 40 others were arrested at a peaceful, properly permitted, pro-democracy meeting on Sunday. Ben managed to escape being arrested and has been in hiding with 5 other human rights activists at the UN (MONUSCO) office for the past several days, but the UN has said it can’t help him flee the country. The event was also sponsored by the US Embassy. The US diplomat was released as well as all the Europeans but all the Africans are still detained. Details are in an article HERE.
The situation is urgent and we are calling for support to help get Ben and the five human rights activists out of the country. We need to raise international concern. We, who are living in safety, need to bring light to the truth so our world does not lose more beautiful leaders committed to peaceful, responsible citizenship and change.
The following are Ben’s requests, made during a phone call this morning:
1. Please pause to pray and send energy for their protection.
2. Donate at telema.org for them to get transport out of the country. Friends of the Congo is working with people they trust on the ground to coordinate the arrangements for Ben and the 5 other human rights activists. You do not need to specify what the donation is for because all funds given on the site right now are for this effort.
3. Contact the US State Department office BEFORE Friday to urge the US to investigate the arrests and closely monitor the situation for safety of the civilians. Please email or leave a message with information from the letter attached, which is also pasted at the end of this email. Daniel Renna – Desk Officer (DR Congo) 202.647-2216 firstname.lastname@example.org and Mark G Jackson – Democracy & Human Rights 202-647-9077.
4. Email the Congolese embassy at email@example.com the attached letter (also pasted below) to request immediate release of the over 300 people who are still being detained for participating in demonstrations in January, for the remaining 30 Africans arrested on Sunday and for the 10 who were arrested in Goma today for demonstrating for the release of the others arrested.
5. Spread the word by posting and forwarding this information to as many people you can.
The Situation and Background
Congo President Joseph Kabila is due to step down next year after completing his second elected term in office but concerns have been raised saying his group is looking for ways to allow him to stay in power.
Last night Ben’s friend Sylvain Saluseke, who is also a Congolese youth leader, was “disappeared” and may now be in custody of the ANR (Congolese security agency).
The Congolese government has been issuing press releases calling the youth leaders and artists ‘terrorists.’ Attached is a statement Ben and the others in hiding sent out in French and English to document what occurred on Sunday. They have a long history of working for non-violence and civic participation to develop a government that works for the people.
Ben and his friends can’t get to the U.S. Embassy because the entrance is being blocked by Congolese government soldiers.
This morning Kambale of Friends of the Congo was able to speak with Ben in French and he recorded it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwBWEvNzlgo
Thank you for your support!
Rena on behalf of all at CongoSwim and the LOPC Congo Team
Dear Honorable Ambassador Faida M. Mitifu
I have become increasingly concerned about apparent ongoing human rights violations in Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years. Just this past Sunday, March 16th, the DRC military and police broke up a peaceful, non-partisan, conference on civil society in Masina. Over 40 people were arrested. This was attended by Congolese youth leaders and several youth leaders from other nearby countries. It was sponsored in part by the U.S. government to provide a forum for Congolese and others to exchange ideas about the importance of civic engagement in the political process. This was a public meeting and I understand the required permits had been lawfully obtained well in advance of the gathering.
The official communication from the US Embassy in DRC stated, “This event, sponsored in part by the U.S. government, is one of many activities the U.S. government supports that involve youth and civil society as part of our broader commitment to encourage a range of voices to be heard. These well-known, well-regarded, non-partisan youth groups as well as the organizers of the weekend’s events intended to promote Congolese youth participation in the political process and encourage young people to express their views about issues of concern to them. DRC government officials and ruling coalition parties were invited to and some were present during the event.”
In response to the arrests at the pro-democracy forum in Masina on Sunday, a protest was held outside the offices of the National Intelligence Agency in Goma today (March 17th). I understand from BBC News that at least 11 people were arrested there.
I strongly urge the Democratic Republic of Congo to immediately stop targeting civilians who are working for peace and democracy. I further request immediate release of the over 300 people who are still being detained for participating in demonstrations in January, for the remaining 30 Africans arrested on Sunday and for the 11 who were arrested in Goma today for demonstrating for the release of the others arrested earlier.
Thank you for your attention to these important issues that impact your nation and the larger global discourse. I look forward to hearing back from you about the progress that has been made to release those apparently unjustly imprisoned and encourage civil dialogue on the important issues facing the DRC as a positive role model for Africa.