Congo official: US diplomat released from detention

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 5:07 PM

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — An American diplomat has been released after being detained in Congo during a raid in which journalists and democracy activists were also arrested, the Congolese government spokesman said Monday.

Sunday's detentions come at a time of rising tension in Congo, where some fear President Joseph Kabila is attempting to prolong his time in power after his term ends next year.

The raid followed a news conference in Kinshasa to support a Congo's Filimbi movement that aims to get more youths to participate in politics. Those arrested were suspected of being a threat to national security, according to Lambert Mende, the government spokesman.

The U.S. diplomat was released overnight, Mende said, adding that the news conference was "no place for a diplomat." He did not disclose the diplomat's name or position and the U.S. State Department has not offered any additional information.

Activists from Burkina Faso, Senegal and an unspecified number of Congolese are still being held, Mende said. He added that the journalists have been released, but Freedom for Journalist, a Congo-based press freedom group, said one Congolese journalist was still being held.

The activists included members of Burkina Faso's Balai Citoyen and Senegal's Y'en a Marre movements. Both have led large-scale protests in recent years against presidents attempting to extend their time in office.

In January, mass protests erupted in Congo against proposed changes to the electoral law, widely seen as a ploy to delay next year's elections and allow Kabila to stay on. Human Rights Watch reported that at least 40 people were killed in the unrest.

Kabila has been president since 2001 and under current law is barred from seeking another term.