The Belgian journalists who were arrested when they arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday are back in Belgium. They were handed back their confiscated passports and smartphones on the plane, VRT journalist Peter Verlinden revealed on Saturday. His team and the VTM team were ambushed by the Information Minister. “They said it was to finalise our visas. We believed them, but it was a trap”.
The teams were reporting on the situation in the central African country. There is a lot of political tension there as Joseph Kabila’s term in office nears its end.
“We were told there were mistakes in our visas, but there weren’t”, Peter said. “We haven’t got our recording equipment back yet”.
The VRT journalist has been reporting on events in the Congo for thirty years. “I have been arrested several times, but I’ve never had this before”, he said. “That shows how strict the regime has become.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders said Belgians who didn’t have to be in the Congo should leave the country, which Peter Verlinden understands. “If you have a lot of experience, you know what to do. But anti-Belgian and anti-white feelings could easily lead to disaster. If my wife and children were there, I would leave too”.
There has been deep political unrest in the Congo since Joseph Kabila’s controversial re-election in 2011. It has been aggravated by the lack of presidential and legislative elections.
Mr Kabila has been in power since 2001, and the constitution bars him from standing again. The Head of State’s second term ends on the 19th of December. So far, he has ignored his critic’s demands to publically state he will not stand at the next presidential election, which should take place in April 2018.
Andy Sanchez (Source: Belga)