Freddy Loseke Lisumbu La Yayenga

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Loseke, editor of the independent weekly La Libre Afrique, was arrested at his Kinshasa home and held in solitary confinement at the Kokolo military base. He was stripped of all his clothes, flogged, and left to spend the night in a dingy, windowless cell.

Loseke’s arrest resulted from two articles that he published in the December 29 and December 31, 1999 issues of La Libre Afrique, which has since ceased publication. Both reports alleged an imminent army-sponsored plot to overthrow President Kabila.

Loseke was initially charged with “betrayal of the state in times of war,” a crime punishable by death.

Loseke’s trial opened on January 11, 2000, at the Court of Military Order (COM) in Kinshasa. Despite the DRC’s constitutional due process guarantees, he was denied legal representation. During the hearing, he was forced to reveal confidential sources. He identified General Hilaire Muland Kapend as the chief conspirator, outlined the coup plot, and named the plotters’ meeting spot. As a result of Loseke’s forced testimony, police arrested several suspects, including General Kapend (who was later released, according to international news reports).

On April 14, a physically exhausted Loseke once again appeared before the COM, this time with legal representation. In their closing argument, Loseke’s lawyers pleaded for his temporary release from detention on health grounds (Loseke suffers from kidney failure, sources in Kinshasa reported). The presiding military judge quickly dismissed the motion, however.

Without any explanation, and over the objections of Loseke’s lawyers, the charge was later changed to “insulting the army.” Without further deliberation, the journalist was found guilty of this second charge on May 19, 2000, and sentenced to three years in prison. (COM decisions cannot be appealed.)

CPJ protested Loseke’s detention in four separate letters to President Kabila, sent on January 20, March 13, May 3, and June 26. Kabila ordered Loseke’s release from prison on January 4, 2001, after 369 days in detention. According to the DRC press-freedom organization Journaliste en Danger, this was one of several recent amnesties granted under Kabila’s “policy of national reconciliation.”