DR Congo

DRC: Rebel group expels priest for offering refuge to displaced people

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NAIROBI, 20 February (IRIN) - The Union des patriotes congolais, an ethnic militia in control of the zone of Bunia, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has expelled a Belgian Catholic priest for offering "illegal hospitality" to displaced people, the Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA) reported on Wednesday.
MISNA said that the official UPC explanation for expelling the Rev Marc Denecker of the Missionaries of Africa congregation (known as White Fathers) was that he had provided the displaced people with refuge in order to "discredit" the UPC.

The news agency quoted sources as saying that Saba Aimable, the UPC's chief of judiciary police and general security administrator, had signed the expulsion decree on 13 February.

The UPC is led by Thomas Lubanga, described by MISNA as one of the "warlord protagonists of the ferocious clashes in the northeastern Ituri region, where armed factions battle over control of the territory and mineral resources".

"Denecker, parish priest of Bunia, on several occasions denounced the continuous human rights violations committed against the population, and his stand obviously bothered the militiamen, who hold civil authority over a war-torn territory. In the expulsion order, the missionary is also accused of 'contacts with the negative forces that are blocking the peace and reconciliation process'," MISNA reported.

Another priest had received a similar expulsion order, but was later granted 10 days to abandon the zone controlled by the UPC, the agency said.

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