Mukombe, a journalist for the private Tshikapa-based Radio Kilimandjaro, was arrested by agents of the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC) Military Intelligence Branch (DEMIAP).
Mukombe hosts a local-language radio program that focuses on development issues in Tshikapa and the surrounding region of the diamond-rich West Kasai Province. According to the local press freedom group Journaliste En Danger (JED), on his December 30 program, Mukombe criticized several local military officials who have allegedly become diamond traders and have allowed their soldiers to steal from the local population. On the program, Mukombe interviewed diamond miners who denounced harassment by these military officials.
Mukombe was accused of “insulting the army.” He was held at the local DEMIAP station until January 2, 2003, when he was transferred to the Tshikapa Central Prison. Eyewitnesses said FAC agents beat Mukombe at the time of his arrest, according to JED.
CPJ was unable to confirm whether authorities intended to prosecute Mukombe. Local sources said it is possible that Mukombe could be tried for the offense in the military court system, which has been known to hand down heavier sentences than civilian courts.
Journalists in the capital, Kinshasa, said that Mukombe had also been arrested on December 23 following the broadcast of a program during which he denounced the poverty endured by the local population while valuable diamonds are mined on a daily basis in the city. Mukombe was released that day after signing an agreement to no longer “set the population against the established authorities,” only to be re-arrested days later. He remained in prison at press time.