Pretoria - The alleged leader of a Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group accused of plotting to overthrow the DRC government appeared briefly in the Pretoria Regional Court on Monday after handing himself over to police at the weekend.
Like his 19 co-accused, who were arrested in Limpopo last week, Etienne Kabila faces charges of violating the Foreign Military Assistance Act for conduct amounting to mercenary activity in South Africa, alternatively a charge of rendering military foreign assistance. He has yet to plead.
It is alleged that Kabila, who claims to be the biological son of slain former president Laurent Kabila, is the ringleader of the group known as the Union of Nationalists for the Renewal.
State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court last week that Kabila’s 19 co-accused, one of them a US citizen, intended to overthrow the DRC government by means of conventional warfare and were planning to act as an anti-rhino poaching unit while undergoing special military training on a farm near Modimolle.
It was said that the group intended to offer mining rights in their country in exchange for weapons and military training.
Evidence in possession of the State includes an alleged arms and ammunition “wish list”, as well as audio and video footage of alleged meetings attended by the accused.
Abrahams asked that the case be postponed to Thursday, when Kabila’s co-accused will make their next appearance.
“(The State needs) time to confirm his address as he provided the investigating officer with an incorrect address in Bellville South,” Abrahams said.
According to Abrahams, an exiled Kabila and his family lived at the address provided for the past seven years until December.
“The resident of that address stated in an affidavit that Kabila does not reside there,” Abrahams said.
Speaking through a French interpreter, Kabila told the court the investigating officer had gone to his neighbour’s house. While waiting to make contact with his Cape Town attorney, Kabila applied for the services of Legal Aid.
Outside the court, a handcuffed Kabila smiled at the media as he was escorted to a 7-series BMW and stated: “I’m innocent.
“(President) Joseph (Kabila) is not my brother. He is the adopted son from a Rwandan family.”
According to court documents, the Union of Nationalists for the Renewal consists of about 9 000 rebels who are dissatisfied with the leadership of the DRC.
Police are looking for a suspect known as Major-General William Yakutumba. It is unclear if he is still in the country.