By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA (Reuters) – A top opposition figure in the Democratic Republic of Congo wanted by the government on treason charges is seeking asylum in the South African embassy in neighbouring Burundi, a spokesman for the Congolese government said on Saturday.
The government accuses Roger Lumbala, a Congolese MP and former rebel, of helping Rwanda support a rebellion in eastern Congo that has deepened political divisions in the capital Kinshasa, where the government and the opposition accuse each other of fanning the flames of the distant war.
The worsening political chaos threatens to undermine President Joseph Kabila’s ability to push through reforms in the country – a potential mining and oil giant – after his reelection in flawed polls last year.
Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the Congolese government, said Lumbala had been trying to win asylum at the South African embassy in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital, and had evaded arrest by Burundian security forces whom Kinshasa had asked to detain him.
“We’re convinced he is in a group who are helping the Rwandans in North Kivu,” Mende said, referring to the province where the M23 rebels operate.
Negotiations were underway to try to get Lumbala transferred to Kinshasa, Mende said, but there had been no response yet from South Africa. At least two other unnamed opposition figures were also being investigated for rebel links, he added.
Officials from South Africa and Burundi were not immediately available to comment.
The opposition has also accused President Joseph Kabila of The same alleged crime as Lumbala – of helping Rwanda back the rebellion in the east.
“It’s practically impossible that (Kabila) will be indicted (for treason), but it could still cause him problems. Reuters.