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DR Congo expels US researcher

democratic republic of congo mapAuthorities in Kinshasa have expelled a US researcher specialising in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an official source said Friday.

According to a diplomatic source, Jason Stearns, director of New York University’s Congo Research Group, was sent by plane late Thursday to Europe, from where he was expected to head to the United States.

Stearns “deceived the immigration service” over his place of residence in Kinshasa, a senior Congolese official told AFP, adding that the researcher was invited to the DRC by “an NGO which is not properly registered” in the country.

“But it is more serious,” the official said, without wishing to say more.

Stearns was quoted by Bloomberg news agency in an April 5 article about a person close to Congolese President Joseph Kabila whose name is mentioned in the “Panama Papers” leaks that revealed how the wealthy in many countries stashed their riches offshore.

The Bloomberg story quotes an email from Stearns in which he says the agency’s work on the documents “offers a rare glimpse into what we assume is a large and diverse array of assets owned by the president’s family”.

At a press conference Friday, government spokesman Lambert Mende warned journalists in Congo against publication of the names of Congolese personalities mentioned in the Panama Papers.

He said some people cited in the leaks are ready to launch legal proceedings if their names appear in the media, “because these people say they have no accounts in Panama”.

“You have to be very careful (before) naming names because you may end up in court and then say that there is no freedom in Congo… but people are also entitled to their honour,” he added.

Stearns, who spent several years in the DRC, especially during the 1998-2003 war, is the author of a reference work on the conflict, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”.

His research group published a report in March on a series of massacres of civilians in North Kivu province since October 2014, claiming that soldiers from the regular army participated in the killings, allegations refuted by Mende.



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