Rwandan rebels kidnap 6 Tanzanian Muslim leaders in DR Congo, demand $20,000 ransom

This could be awkward for Tanzania, which in the past called on Rwanda to negotiate with the rebels now turned kidnappers.

THE kidnappers of six Tanzanian imams and their Congolese driver have asked for a ransom of $20,000, a source from the Congolese Islamic Community (COMICO) said Tuesday.

The six Tanzanian imams and their Congolese driver were kidnapped on Aug. 2, 2015, by men suspected to be members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

“Currently, they have been located in Rutshuru forest. There are people following them. Their kidnappers are asking for a ransom of  $20,000,” COMICO coordinator El Hadji Masudi said.

 “We do not have money, but we hope they will be released soon,” he said, adding that “our Tanzanian brothers had come to preach.” Civil society groups in North Kivu have equally expressed concern over the abduction.  

“This is an unfortunate incident because the kidnappers may destroy our country’s good relations with Tanzania, making us look like enemies of our Tanzanian brothers,” said Thomas Mwiti, the president of North Kivu civil society groups. Mwiti revealed that close to 500 people had been kidnapped in Rutushuru territory since the beginning of this year.

This development can only awkward for Tanzania. In 2013, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, called on Rwanda to open political negotiations with the FDLR, drawing a remarkably angry response from Kigali.  

Rwanda sees the FDLR as no more than remnants of the forces that carried out the genocide that killed nearly million people in the country in 1994.

Relations between the two East African neighbours soured considerably in the immediate aftermath. Tanzania at that time listed the FDLR as “freedom fighters.”

To complicate matters, Tanzania is the lead contingent of the UN’s special UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) - the first UN peacekeeping unit mandated to neutralise armed groups in the DR Congo  - under the wider and much-maligned peacekeeping operation Monusco.

Deadlines to disarm the armed groups, including FDLR, have come and passed without significant action against them. Kigali blames FIB’s ineffectiveness against FDLR on the ambivalence of Tanzania and South Africa, another key member of the force, suggesting they have sympathies for the rebels.

-Part of the reporting by Xinhua.

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