Africa

6 peace envoys 'held hostage' by rebels in eastern DRC

Central African country's Peace Task Force says captives were in Djugu territory on peace, reconciliation mission

James Tasamba   | 17.02.2022
6 peace envoys 'held hostage' by rebels in eastern DRC

KIGALI, Rwanda

Six peace envoys of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) president have been missing since Wednesday afternoon and are believed to be held captive by a militia group in the eastern part of the country, an official said on Thursday.

It is believed the six peace envoys are held by militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), Pitchou Iribi, spokesman for the Task Force for Peace, told reporters.

"The information received from these militiamen reassures that they are indeed alive and safe in captivity," he said.

Those held hostage include Thomas Lubanga, a former warlord in the northeastern Ituri province, Germain Katanga, a former rebel leader, two journalists, and a driver, according to Iribi.

The captives were in the northeastern Djugu area on a peace and reconciliation mission aimed to convince armed groups to lay down their arms.

Iribi said efforts were underway to secure their freedom and called on the public to remain calm.

As part of the mission, the members of the Peace Task Force went to Djugu to meet with various rebel groups to sensitize them on President Felix Tshisekedi's demobilization program.

Local media reported the six were taken hostage following bombardment by the government forces targeting the militia group's positions.

The militia group has reportedly acknowledged that the six were in their captivity, and claimed it was intended to "shelter them following the bombing."

The military provincial governor of Ituri province, Luboya N'kashama, said he had provided soldiers for the security of the peace team, but that they had decided to leave the troops behind.

In order to restore peace in the restive eastern Congo, Tshisekedi's administration initiated a Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery, and Stabilization Program to encourage combatants in armed groups to stop fighting and re-integrate into community life.

The program, under which scores of combatants have previously surrendered, is implemented with the support of various partners, including the UN peacekeeping force in Congo, MONUSCO.

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