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This aerial view, taken on Sept. 10, 2023, shows the city of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP/Getty Images

New Brunswick’s Premier is demanding the federal government act quickly to save the life of a Fredericton man who was kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has been held in captivity for more than four months.

This week, Premier Blaine Higgs sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly urging Ottawa to redouble its efforts on behalf of Fredrick (Freddy) Wangabo Mwenengabo, a Canadian citizen born in Congo, who was kidnapped in the eastern city of Goma in December.

“Every effort must be taken to ensure he can return to the country he has chosen as his home,” Mr. Higgs wrote in the April 15 letter.

Mr. Mwenengabo, in his late 40s, has lived in New Brunswick since 2009, working to support francophone newcomers to Canada. He, his brother and a friend were kidnapped by an unidentified group on Dec. 16, 2023, while he was visiting family in Goma, said his son, Simon Chinamula of Miramichi, N.B.

Masked men kidnapped the three while they were walking to a hospital in the middle of the city where Mr. Chinamula said his father planned to visit victims of the civil war as part of his human rights work. The men, who usually had a security guard with them, did not at that time and were forcibly taken by Jeep into the jungle. Mr. Mwenengabo was held captive while his brother and friend were released.

Several times over the intervening months, the kidnappers have contacted the family with ransom demands.

Mr. Chinamula, who has recently been off work from his job as a data analyst and correction officer because of the stress of the situation, decried the lack of support from the Canadian government.

“It’s clear the Canadian government isn’t doing anything. They say a big machine is doing something but it’s clear they are not – it’s been four months plus a day and we have no clue,” he said.

He said he believes the Canadian government can easily locate his father by tracking the cellphone location from where the kidnappers are sending messages.

“They are focusing on useless things instead of a practical plan to rescue Freddy,” Mr. Chinamula told The Globe.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Pierre Cuguen said the Government of Canada is aware that a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in the Congo, but declined to provide further information, citing safety and privacy.

“Kidnappings are an extremely sensitive matter given the risk to a kidnap victim’s life,” he wrote. “The Government of Canada makes every effort to assist Canadians kidnapped outside Canada, as well as their families.”

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Gar Pardy, a former Canadian diplomat who has been consulting on the case, said the situation won’t improve without more initiative from the government.

Mr. Pardy, who has helped secure the release of more than 100 Canadians in hostage or kidnapping situations during his career, said there has been no indication of any efforts from Ottawa to free Mr. Mwenengabo, and little communication with his family except for a report of an RCMP officer who met with local officials in Goma in late December.

“In cases like this you try to find an intermediary that can act on your behalf in negotiating with the groups that are involved with the primary purpose to protect the life of the individual affected by all this,” he said, adding that this is normal for G7 countries.

“In reality, ransoms get paid, and in some way or another, governments are involved using intermediaries,” he said.

Complicating the case is there is no functioning local government in Goma, which is currently under siege by the M23 rebel militia group. The group is supported by neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda and foreign mining companies, some of which are Canadian, Mr. Pardy said.

Also, Mr. Pardy said it’s unclear whether the motive for the kidnapping is political or criminal. Still, he recommended that Ottawa request assistance from nearby Rwanda.

Mr. Mwenengabo is a well-known advocate for peace and human rights in Congo. He spoke about a colleague killed in Congo in a video by Halifax’s Canadian Museum of Immigration. According to biographical information on the museum’s website, he was harassed and tortured when he lived there. In 2005, he was arrested and accused of trying to overthrow the government. He fled to Uganda where he worked for Amnesty International, before immigrating to New Brunswick.

Green Party of New Brunswick Leader David Coon, who is a friend and elected representative of Mr. Mwenengabo, spoke about the case in the legislature last month.

“The family wants to know that Global Affairs is thinking out of the box,” Mr. Coon told The Globe. “Time is running out. We’re talking about a Canadian life in the balance here.”

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