No easy exit from Congo

An Ottawa man’s release from prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be short-lived — he may be behind bars again in a matter of days.

“He’s not coming home,” family friend Henriette Yakibonge told the Sun on Sunday.

“He doesn’t have his passport, he doesn’t have any money. He’s afraid of what’s going to happen now.”

Yakibonge says she spoke with Fabien Kalala Shambuyi by phone on Saturday.

“You’re out for now, but you’re going to go back (to prison),” is what she says Shambuyi told her he’s been advised.

Shambuyi, 24, was recently freed from Makala Prison, where he was tossed shortly following his Dec. 21 arrest at the Kinshasa airport.

He had been heading home to Ottawa for Christmas and his family says he was one of dozens taken into custody for insulting the president.

Shambuyi was volunteering as a security guard for opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who squared off against recently re-elected Congolese president Joseph Kabila.

Violence has erupted in the Congo amid what many protesters call a rigged election process.

Kabila won 49% of the vote while Tshisekedi scored 32%, leading to angry demonstrations, and the challenger declaring himself president.

Shambuyi’s brother, Eric Kunda A. Tombe, told the Sun his brother’s cellphone, passport and cash — $3,000 Euros — were confiscated when he was cuffed.

Shambuyi has been in touch with family and friends in Ottawa via telephone, but isn’t saying much.

“He’s afraid of Kabila. He’s afraid they might be listening to the conversation,” said Yakibonge.

Shambuyi escaped danger at another Congolese jail Sunday when at least eight people were killed and dozens injured during a prison break gone awry.

A grenade reportedly exploded in the hands of an inmate at Bukavu central prison.

“The civilian (prisoner) did not know how to use a grenade, he pulled the pin out, but didn’t throw it,” provincial chief of police Gen. Gaston Luzembo told Reuters.

The Canadian government is monitoring Shambuyi’s predicament.

“We are pleased Mr. Kalala has been provisionally released,” said John Babcock, spokesman for Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy.

“We are following his situation closely and will continue to provide consular assistance as needed.”

In Ottawa, Shambuyi’s family and friends are anxious.

“Hopefully, we’re going to get some good news,” said Yakibonge.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/01/01/ottawa-man-trapped-in-congo

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