South Africa and Democratic Republic of the Congo: The Union of Nationalists for Renewal (UNR), including its connection to the regime in power in South Africa; arrests of UNR members in February 2013 in South Africa; protest organized by the UNR in South Africa in December 2012, including arrests; reaction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo government following those arrests and the measures that it took, including extradition requests (December 2012-May 2013) [ZZZ104423.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Union of Nationalists for Renewal

The Union of Nationalists for Renewal (Union des nationalistes pour le renouveau, UNR) is described as a Congolese "rebel group" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (AP 7 Feb. 2013; Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013), a Congolese "rebel militia" (Reuters 7 Feb. 2013) and a "dissident group" (IOL News 7 Mar. 2013). Sources state that the group is "little known" (Reuters 7 Feb. 2013) or "shadowy" (USIP 2013).

The leader of the UNR is Étienne Kabila [Étienne Taratibu Kabila or Étienne Kabila Taratibu, depending on the source] (BBC 12 Feb. 2013; IOL News 7 Mar. 2013; Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013). Sources note that Étienne Kabila says that he is the son of the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Kabila (IOL News 7 Mar. 2013; BBC 12 Feb. 2013; AP 7 Feb. 2013). According to the BBC, he also maintains that the current president, Joseph Kabila, is not the true son of Laurent Kabila (BBC 12 Feb. 2013).

According to sources, the UNR has 9,000 members (Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013) or 7,000 to 9,000 members (IOL News 7 Mar. 2013; Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013).

Other details about the UNR could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

2. Arrests in February 2013

In February 2013, the South African authorities arrested 19 individuals charged with plotting a coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (BBC 12 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013; CNN 6 Feb. 2013). The accused were identified by the South African authorities as belonging to the UNR (BBC 12 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013).

One of these men, James Kazongo, has American citizenship (Reuters 7 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013; The Independent 7 Feb. 2013). Sources indicate that James Kazongo is considered to be the leader of the conspirators (Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013; The Independent 7 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013). According to the Associated Press (AP), James Kazongo denied the charges filed against him, stating that he entered South Africa only four days before his arrest (AP 7 Feb. 2013).

Étienne Kabila turned himself in to the police a few days after the arrest of the 19 accused (IOL News 7 Mar. 2013; BBC 12 Feb. 2013). The Minister of Communications and Media of the DRC told the Associated Press that it was not the first time that Étienne Kabila had tried to stage a coup (AP 7 Feb. 2013).

Another man in the group, known under the name of "General Yakatumba" [or Yakutumba], was not captured (Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013; AP 7 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013). According to the South African daily Mail & Guardian, he was the "military leader" of the UNR (8 Feb. 2013).

According to the South African authorities, the men arrested were looking to receive military training to plot their coup (Reuters 7 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013; CNN 6 Feb. 2013). They also tried to buy weapons (Reuters 7 Feb. 2013; eNCA 7 Feb. 2013; The Independent 7 Feb. 2013). Some sources state that, according to the South African authorities, they tried to recruit mercenaries (Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013). They also tried to obtain funding (Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013; The Independent 7 Feb. 2013).

After the arrests, some thought that the UNR was linked to the M23 (Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013), a Congolese rebel group active in eastern DRC (CNN 6 Feb. 2013). However, these links were not proven (ibid.; Atlanta Black Star 8 Feb. 2013).

The men arrested were charged under a South African anti-mercenary law (Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013; BBC 12 Feb. 2013; CNN 6 Feb. 2013). According to the Associated Press, the Foreign Military Assistance Act, which they are charged with having violated, prohibits participating in coups and in mercenary activities abroad (AP 7 Feb. 2013).

According to the Congolese daily Le Potentiel, the Minister of Communications and Media of the DRC explained during a press conference that [translation] "in trying the 19 Congolese conspirators on its own soil, the South African justice system simply applied the country's Foreign Military Assistance Act, which prohibits unauthorized mercenary activities and enables them to be tried in South Africa," adding that "it is not a warped conspiracy from Kinshasa, as alleged by an unidentified individual" Le Potentiel, 23 Mar. 2013). The Minister also told the Associated Press that the Congolese authorities wanted the accused to be extradited to the DRC (AP 7 Feb. 2013). Further information on the extradition request could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Associated Press, several of the accused stated before the magistrate presiding over their 7 February 2013 court appearance that they were beaten by the police and refused access to lawyers and their families (7 Feb. 2013). Almost all of them asked to be seen by a doctor (AP 7 Feb. 2013).

Sources indicate that some Congolese accuse the South African government of colluding with the Congolese government (Afrikarabia 14 Apr. 2013; Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013; Reuters 7 Feb. 2013). According to two of these sources, some Congolese suspect the South African government of trying to obstruct the Congolese opposition by conducting these arrests (Afrikarabia 14 Apr. 2013; Mail & Guardian 8 Feb. 2013).

In March 2013, the suspects' request to be released on bail was rejected (Le Potentiel 23 Mar. 2013; Radio Okapi 23 Mar. 2013; SABC 22 Mar. 2013). According to sources, their next appearance is scheduled for 23 May 2013 (Le Potentiel 23 Mar. 2013; Radio Okapi 23 Mar. 2013).

3. Protest Organized by the UNR in South Africa in December 2012

Information on a protest organized by the UNR in South African in December could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Afrikarabia. 14 April 2013. "RDC : 'complots' à répétition contre Joseph Kabila." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

Associated Press (AP). 7 February 2013. Jon Gambrell. "South Africa Prosecutors: Rebels - Including US Citizen - Plotted Coup Against Congo President." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

Atlanta Black Star. 8 February 2013. Nick Chiles. "South Africa Foils Coup Plot Against Congo Government." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 12 February 2013. "Etienne Kabila Charged in South Africa for DR Congo 'Plot'." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

Cable News Network (CNN). 6 February 2013. David McKenzie. "South African Police Seize Alleged Congo Coup Plotters." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

eNCA. 7 February 2013. "Details of Planned DRC Coup Emerge in Court." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

The Independent [London]. 7 February 2013. Daniel Howden. "19 Charged in Pretoria with Plotting Congo Coup." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

IOL News. 7 March 2013. Yolande du Preez. "DRC Coup Plot Accused in Bail Bid." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

Mail & Guardian [Joannesburg]. 8 February 2013. Niren Tolsi. "Congo Dissidents 'Stung' by Hawks." [Accessed 13 May 2013]

Le Potentiel [Kinshasa]. 23 March 2013. Angelo Mobateli. "'Libération sous caution' refusée, Etienne Kabila et ses 19 coaccus comparaîtront le 23 mai." [Accessed 16 May 2013]

Radio Okapi. 23 March 2013. "Pretoria : le juge refuse la liberté provisoire aux 20 Congolais accusés de complot contre Kabila." [Accessed 23 March 2013]

Reuters. 7 February 2013. Peroshni Govender. "South Africa Charges Congo Rebels with Planning Coup." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

SABC. 22 March 2013. "DRC Alleged Coup Plotters Denied Bail." [Accessed 16 May 2013]

United States Institute of Peace (USIP). 2013. "Eastern Congo: Changing Dynamics and the Implications for Peace." [Accessed 10 May 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sources, including: 7 sur 7; Agence Belga; AllAfrica; Amnesty International; Association congolaise pour l'accès à la justice; L'Avenir; BSC Infos; Congo DRC News; Congo Indépendant; Le Congolais; Digital Congo; ecoi.net; Factiva; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; France – Cour nationale du droit d'asile; Human Rights Watch; Jamestown Foundation; Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor; Jeune Afrique; La Prospérité; South Africa – Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; South African Police Service; South African Press Association; STRATFOR; United Kingdom – Home Office; United Nations – Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld, ReliefWeb; United States – Department of State; Voice of America.