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The Globe and Mail

Canadian with links to opposition candidate is jailed in Congo

Supporters of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) face police in Kinshasa on December 23, 2011.


A young Canadian man has been arrested in the Congo, caught up in the political powder keg that is the Central African country, his family says.

Ottawa resident Fabien Shambuyi Kalala is one of dozens of people picked up off the streets of Kinshasa in the wake of the country's presidential elections, now under scrutiny by global observers.

Canada needs to step up its own condemnation of the November vote before arrests devolve into far more violent confrontations in a country that has already lost millions to war and disease, analysts say.

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Mr. Kalala, 24, was supposed to fly back to Ottawa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week to spend Christmas with his family, but they became worried when he didn't call, his mother said in an interview.

Repeated calls to his cellphone were eventually answered, only for his family to hear him arguing with police officials, Marie-Thérèse Kapinga said.

"We're afraid, we're very afraid," she said.

A spokesman for Consular Affairs Minister Diane Ablonczy said officials are aware of a Canadian under arrest.

"Canadian officials in Kinshasa are providing consular assistance to a Canadian who was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo and officials in Ottawa are in contact with his family," John Babcock said in an e-mail.

Family members believe Mr. Kalala's arrest is directly connected to his relationship with Étienne Tshisekedi, who challenged President Joseph Kabila for the presidency.

Mr. Kabila took over leadership of the Congo after his father was assassinated in 2001, and was elected president in the country's first elections in 2006.

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Mr. Tshisekedi, a veteran of African politics, had boycotted those elections.

In the 2011 ballot, the Congolese election commission said Mr. Kabila won 49 per cent of the vote, with Mr. Tshisekedi capturing 32 per cent, but the U.S.-based Carter Center said the results "lack credibility."

Mr. Kalala had travelled to Kinshasa to volunteer on Mr. Tshisekedi's campaign, as the two families are related, his brother Joelle Munumba said.

Both the United States and the European Union have expressed alarm over the electoral results, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling last week for a review of the process by Congolese and international officials.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wouldn't go that far.

"We continue to urge all parties to exercise calm and restraint, and for all political actors to avoid inciting violence or taking action that might lead to a further deterioration of the security situation," Rick Roth said in an e-mail.

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"Free, fair and transparent elections are crucial for peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region."

The Canadian Press

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