Arrest warrant issued for DR Congo opposition leader

An arrest warrant was issued today for a former Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo warlord who took refuge inside a foreign embassy while his personal army and government troops fought in the capital.

An arrest warrant was issued today for a former Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo warlord who took refuge inside a foreign embassy while his personal army and government troops fought in the capital.

Prosecutor Tsaimanga Mukenda said neither Jean-Pierre Bemba’s immunity as a senator nor the fact that he had sought refuge in the South African Embassy would stop him from seeking his arrest on charges of high treason.

“He has caused serious infractions by organising a militia and by ordering looting … his actions amount to high treason and we will pursue him wherever he is,” Mukenda said in Kinshasa , adding he would ask parliament to strip Bemba of immunity.

Bemba, whose personal army began clashing with security forces yesterday, arrived at the South African Embassy last night with his wife, said the embassy’s charge d’affaire Kenneth Pedro. “This is a temporary measure, until a cease-fire is declared. He has not sought asylum,” Pedro said.

Gunfire rang out today and thick black smoke rose from an oil refinery in the capital.

It was the first fighting in the capital since Congo (formerly Zaire) installed Joseph Kabila as president on December 6, making him the nation’s first freely-elected president since 1960.

Bemba, who came in second in the presidential run-off, initially rejected the election results and his militia took to the streets, clashing with Kabila’s security forces. At least two dozen civilians were killed.

Bemba gave up his challenge after the Supreme Court rejected his claims and was recently elected to the Senate, but he has so far refused to disband his personal army, which is thought to number in the thousands.

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