Congo opposition figure allegedly escapes kidnapping attempt

A top member of a Congo opposition group in South Africa says assailants attempted to kidnap him last week because he is rallying Congolese nationals against President Kabila.

A top member of the Congo's main opposition party says he has narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt in Johannesburg, South Africa. The incident comes three months after an attempt on the life of a Rwandan opposition figure also living in South Africa.

Michel Nsimba Bayela, deputy president for former rebel group the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), says a group of assailants attempted to kidnap him the night of Sept. 22.

“My sin here is that I have been organizing Congolese nationals living in South Africa not to vote for [current president] Joseph Kabila in the next election," Mr. Bayela said in an interview here, where he lives in exile.

“Now I have been seeing several unmarked, privately owned cars near my residence at night. Only [Sept. 22], they attempted to kidnap me, but I managed to escape through a security wall,” he says. The incident was also alleged by Jemadari Kilele, president of fellow opposition group the Congolese National Party (PNP), who is also based in Johannesburg.

Bayela says South African police have promised to investigate. Police spokeswoman KD Mogale said Thursday she needed time to establish Bayela's claim.

The Congo Embassy dismissed the allegations. "Bayela is just an asylum seeker seeking sympathy from South Africa's Home Affairs. Nobody is trailing or threatening to kill him," Congo's ambassador to South Africa, Ben Mpoko, said in an interview Thursday.

Mr. Bayela is deputy to Jean Pierre Bemba, who placed second in the Democratic Republic of Congo's 2006 election. Mr. Bemba is now in The Hague facing charges of crimes against humanity.

This would not be the first time that disputes in the restive Great Lakes region have appeared to play out in South Africa. Just three months ago was a suspected political attack on former Rwanda Army Chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a top critic of Rwanda's authoritarian leader. Mr. Nyamwasa was shot in Melrose in an apparent assassination attempt in June. South Africa recalled its ambassador to Rwanda over the incident in early August.

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