Kinshasa – The former head of Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi’s party, who recently joined the opposition, has been arrested on charges of slandering the head of state, judicial sources said.
Jean-Marc Kabund, an MP and former deputy speaker of parliament, was arrested in Kinshasa on Tuesday, questioned and held in custody, a prosecuting magistrate at the Court of Cassation told AFP.
A charge list submitted by prosecutors said Kabund was guilty of “insulting the head of state, making damaging insinuations and slander”.
Kabund joined opposition ranks last month after being kicked out of Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
Announcing that he was setting up his own party, the Alliance for Change, Kabund lashed the government for “incompetence and institutionalised mismanagement marked by indifference, irresponsibility, entitlement and predatory behaviour at the apex of the state”.
“Embezzlement… hundreds of millions of dollars, stashed away in tax havens, put in multinational companies, vast sums of cash which are leaving the country aboard private jets,” Kabund said in an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI).
Under Tshisekedi, “parliament (has become) a chamber for debating subjects of no relevance whatsoever, and a theatre for political clowns”, he added.
His arrest coincided with a visit to Kinshasa by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is under pressure from pro-democracy groups to speak out on rights abuses in DR Congo.
The largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo was ruled for 18 years by the iron-fisted Joseph Kabila, who handed over power in January 2019 after peaceful but disputed elections.
Tshisekedi, his successor, won the vote on a campaign to cleanse the country’s entrenched reputation for corruption and uphold human rights.