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Rebels Close Congo Radio Station

December 9, 2002

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KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) _ Congolese rebels closed a radio station and detained its director and programming chief on Monday after the station broadcast programs critical of the insurgents, a rebel spokesman said.

Radio Maendeleo was taken off the air in the eastern Congo town of Bukavu for violating the terms of its license, which restricted the station to promoting the operations of aid groups, said Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga of the Congolese Rally for Democracy.

Workers at the station said it was shut down a day after broadcasting a program in which residents and community leaders criticized the rebels’ introduction of new number plates for vehicles in rebel-held North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.

Rebels raided the station and arrested its director, Mushizi Nfundiko Kizito, and programming chief, Omba Kamengele, Kisanga said.

``They shall be taken to court very soon and charged with defamation,″ Kisanga said by telephone from rebel headquarters in Goma. ``We want to restore order in the broadcasting sector.″

The rebels have set up their own administration in eastern Congo, which includes a judiciary.

Radio Maendeleo is one of four private radio stations in Bukavu. Its license has been suspended several times by rebels, but this is the first time they revoked the broadcast permit.

The Congolese Rally for Democracy is one of two main rebel groups fighting in the war in Congo that broke out in 1998. The rebels are to resume peace talks with the government in South Africa this week.

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