Top DRC opposition figure leaves Burundi, goes to France -lawyer

Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:52am EDT

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* Opposition figure has been in hiding after treason charge

* Source at South African embassy confirms departure

BUJUMBURA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - An opposition figure wanted in the Democratic Republic of Congo on treason charges has left neighbouring Burundi, where he had taken refuge, and has gone to France, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Roger Lumbala, a Congolese member of parliament and former rebel, arrived at the South African Embassy in Bujumbura in early September, seeking asylum.

The government accuses him of helping Rwanda support a rebellion in eastern Congo that has deepened political fissures in the capital Kinshasa, where the government and opposition accuse each other of fanning the flames of the distant war.

The worsening political chaos threatens to undermine President Joseph Kabila's ability to push through p olitical and economic reforms i n the country - a potential mining and oil giant - after his re-election in flawed polls last year.

"Lumbala left the South African Embassy on Saturday with a Kenya airways flight and took the direction of France," lawyer Prosper Niyoyankana told Reuters.

"He was escorted to Bujumbura international airport by officials from the South African Embassy and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR)," he added.

A source at the South African embassy confirmed the departure. Burundian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

On Thursday, Burundi's foreign affairs minister asked Congolese authorities to formulate an official demand for the extradition of Lumbala. (Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Editing by George Obulutsa and Robin Pomeroy)

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