DR Congo ‘prophet’ on the run after attacks kill 100

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KINSHASA  – A self-proclaimed “prophet” and televangelist blamed for violence that killed more than 100 people in DR Congo’s two main cities has fled the country, the government said Tuesday.

Supporters of Joseph Munkugubila Mutombo, who describes himself as God’s “last envoy to humanity after Jesus Christ and Paul of Tarsus”, said it was the army that triggered the deadly unrest in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.

The government said its forces fought back a “terrorist offensive” on Monday, including attacks on the airport and main army headquarters in the capital as well as armed youths in the second city of Lubumbashi.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said a total of 103 people were killed, 95 attackers and eight members of the armed forces.

“The death toll is heavy, very heavy,” he told reporters.

Mukungubila, who ran for president in 2006, had charged in a December 5 open letter that President Joseph Kabila was colluding with the regime of neighbouring Rwanda and argued he should not remain head of state.

“He has, courageously, vanished,” Mende said.

“He himself does not believe that his cause is right, a cause for which he is claiming responsibility in phone calls from a neighbouring country, or not too far away from ours. This man is a fugitive, he’s on the run,” he said.

The spokesman said those involved in what appeared to be coordinated attacks included several repeat offenders who had benefited from amnesty but no members of the security forces.

After taking control early Monday of the national radio and television (RNTC) premises in Kinshasa and holding reporters hostage, some armed youths clearly stated they were acting for Mukungubila, whom they call “the prophet of the eternal”.

His “Ministry of Restoration from Black Africa” said in an online statement published Monday that the armed forces had attacked the pastor’s home in Lubumbashi on Sunday, drawing armed reprisals.

Pastor allied with foes of Kabila

They said tempers flared when the authorities in Lubumbashi arrested “children” handing out copies of the preacher’s open letter, in which he “told the truth, that is to say we cannot have a foreigner at the head of the country.”

Mukungubila, 66, has allied himself with foes of Kabila who assert that he is a native — and a puppet — of neighbouring Rwanda, which has long played a key role in the affairs of its vast western neighbour, as both invader and ally.

This claim is unproven and denied by family members who say that Kabila was born in a rebel camp run by his late father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who in 1997 ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko

The flare-up came after news Sunday the country’s top cop was dismissed and replaced by an ethnic Tutsi, sparking suspicion among some Kabila critics of Rwandan meddling.

Kabila was in the mining capital of Lubumbashi when a group of men stormed the set of a live programme by the state broadcaster in Kinshasa, nearly 1,000 miles away.

His absence from the capital and the chaos that set in on Monday sparked fears of a coup in the vast mineral-rich nation but Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo soon announced that the situation was under control.

The authorities made several arrests on Monday and displayed Kalashnikov assault rifles and ammunition described as the attackers’ arsenal.

“I was really frightened yesterday. I heard heavy gunfire while I was at the market with my two children… We fled,” household help Chantal said.

Shops that had closed and inhabitants who had stayed at home amid the confusion were back open and on the streets of Kinshasa Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported.

Monday’s statement by the preacher’s office described how a kind of divine shield allegedly protected Mukungubila’s residence from army shelling.

“Then they began to shell the residence… The shells did nothing, they didn’t even damage vehicles,” it said.

Witnesses in Lubumbashi however told AFP Tuesday that the self-styled religious leader’s house had been largely demolished.

On his Ministry of Restoration website, Mukungubila is described as “the prophet of God, by whom the creator is speaking to us on this world today.”

In another somewhat cryptic post, the website says Mukungubila’s birth on December 26, 1947 coincided with the fall of a star “of the same type as that of Bethlehem. (AFP)

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