DRC: Rebels loot radio station’s broadcast equipment

New York, September 6, 2007—Community radio station Radio Colombe was raided by rebel soldiers on Saturday night in Rutshuru, north of Goma in the DRC, according to the station’s director, Hubert Furugupa. A group of armed men aligned with rebel general Laurent Nkunda kidnapped two reporters and stole radio equipment and a generator from the station, according to local journalists and human rights group Journaliste en Danger.

A large group of insurgents ransacked the station and abducted two radio journalists and a technician from a local electricity company for 12 hours, Furugupa said. The stolen radio equipment is being used by the rebels to launch their own radio broadcasts calling for public military support, said Furugupa.

“The repeated raids on Radio Colombe, a crucial voice for the people in North Kivu, must be stopped,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The government needs to increase its efforts to protect community radio stations and ensure they can continue broadcasting through these precarious times in eastern Congo.”

The director has had ongoing problems with insurgents. The day after the raid on the station, Furugupa received three threatening phone calls from two anonymous sources demanding to know whether he supports the government or Nkunda. Late last year Nkunda’s rebels looted two local Radio Colombe stations in Nyanzale and Masisi villages and another station in Nyamilima village last January. After the raids last December, Furugupa said, all of the remaining equipment was moved to the Rusthuru station.

After Saturday’s attack, during which the rebels cut the town’s electricity, the men headed south to fight the national army. Nkunda, a Tutsi, had cut ties with the national army last week, nine months after his forces were partially integrated into it, after accusing the government of collaborating with the Hutu rebel group, the Rwandan Democratic Liberation Forces.

Fighting ended today with a cease-fire brokered by the U.N.  The Radio Colombe station at Rusthuru remains closed but the main station, based in Goma, is operational.