Kinshasa, June 3, 2004—Rebel forces that took control of the town of Bukavu, in eastern DRC, on Wednesday have threatened and attacked the town’s three main community radio stations, forcing them off the air, according to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) and other local sources.
Joseph Nkinzo, director of the radio station Sauti ya Rehema (Voice of Mercy), narrowly escaped an assassination attempt this morning, when rebels came looking for him and murdered his younger brother. The rebels arrived at the journalist’s home, smashed windows, and demanded to know where Nkinzo was. Believing that Nkinzo’s brother was the journalist, the rebels killed him and looted the house.
Ben Kabamba, director of Radio Maria; Kizito Mushizi, director of Radio Maendeleo; and Nkinzo had been receiving death threats by telephone since May 29. CPJ sources say the rebels began hunting for the three station directors shortly after taking the town on Wednesday morning.
All three stations stopped broadcasting to protect their staff. Rebel forces broke windows and stole equipment from Radio Maria. Also on Wednesday, rebels seized communications equipment from a guard at Radio Maendeleo and forced their way into the studio, but no one was there.
Nkinzo and Mushizi took refuge at the U.N. compound in Bukavu today.
Radio Okapi, a joint project of the U.N. mission in DRC and the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation, is the only radio station in Bukavu whose broadcasts continued uninterrupted. Radio Okapi broadcasts from the U.N. compound.
Two groups of pro-Rwanda rebels in the east joined forces to take Bukavu on Wednesday because of tensions over a new integrated national army a new governor appointed in Bukavu by the transitional government in Kinshasa, according to international news sources. Anti-U.N. protests erupted yesterday in Kinshasa and other cities, with demonstrators blaming U.N. peacekeepers in Bukavu for failing to defend the city.
On Wednesday morning, Serge Maheshe, a journalist with Radio Okapi, received phone calls from presumably anti-rebel individuals who threatened to “deal” with him because they said he worked for the United Nations, which the callers said had “sold Bukavu out.”
Sources in Bukavu told CPJ that on Thursday afternoon, rebels forced journalists from the local studio of the national radio station RTNC back on air and were dictating the content of broadcasts.