By Gael Masengi
A Congolese activist residing in Paris, France has turned to an online campaign tool to pressure the South African government, in particular demanding president Zuma to release 20 Congolese (DRC) refugees apparently detained illegally in South Africa since early February this year.
Ezechias Baudoin had initiated a petition entitled “To President Jacob Zuma: Release of 20 Congolese Patriots (arrested in South Africa)” on an American for profit website, Change.org pleading everyone to sign on a bid to demand a possible release of twenty Congolese arrested nearly five months now. A South African prosecutor in charge of the case accuses the men of plotting to overthrow the controversial regime of Joseph Kabila and physically eliminate him and his aides. Nineteen suspects were initially arrested by a special division of the South African police in the early hours of February the 6th 2013 while en route to the northern province of Limpopo where the prosecutor alleged that a “training camp” was set-up by a team of undercover police officers who pretended to be retired members of S.A elite commando-turn mercenaries. Belonging to an unheard organization called the “Union of Nationalists for Renewal”, the men allegedly sent a “wish list” asking for machine guns, radio, grenades and even surface-to-air missiles and arranged for a training camp, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told magistrate judge at previous court hearing. Accused to be the “ring leader”, Etienne Taratibu Kabila eldest son of assassinated President Laurent D. Kabila eventually turned himself in at a Bellevue police station, Cape Town. Meanwhile, the 20 suspects continue to rot in jail with no fixed date of further bail hearing.
Since then South African police have been engaged on what members of Congolese community call “witch hunt”, a systematic arrests of anti-Kabila activist living in exile in South Africa and they are often tried in absence of refugee organizations.
In the past the website has helped to draw the media as well as the people’s attention across the world on issues of social change and human rights, notably in the shooting of 17-year-old African-American, Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the United States. A petition entitled "Prosecute the killer of our son” posted on Change.org related to the brutal murder of Martin, received over 2.2 million signatures, the website along other social media was credited for playing a pivotal role in spreading awareness about the killing.
Several analysts of the great lake region have for long described the close relationship between Joseph Kabila and Jacob Zuma as “unconventional” citing oil and mining interests “in return of protection”. Joseph Kabila who came in power in 2001 shortly after the assassination of his “father”, is also seen by many as a copy-cat dictator who has ruled for the mineral enriched Democratic Republic of Congo with an iron fist for the last twelve years.
The petition (written in French language) has yet to reach hundred signatures for a possible submission to the South African president and his government is slowly drawing attention of human rights activists and of many other prominent free speech advocates across all platforms. You too can contribute make a change and keep democracy alive by singing the petition. www.change.org