Congo says foils plot to assassinate president

KINSHASA Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:35pm EDT

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila attends the signing ceremony of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes, at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa Feburary 24, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila attends the signing ceremony of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes, at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa Feburary 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's government said on Friday it had thwarted a plot involving a Belgian member of parliament that aimed to assassinate President Joseph Kabila and overthrow his government.

Two suspects - a Belgian doctor of Congolese origin named Jean-Pierre Kanku Mukendi and Isidore Madimba Mongombe, a former policeman - were arrested last month in the capital Kinshasa, Interior Minister Richard Muyej told journalists.

Muyej said the two men, who were in possession of a small quantity of weapons at the time of their arrest, confessed to the plot.

"(Mukendi) admitted that this plan to attack the city of Kinshasa and physically eliminate the head of state was adopted at a large meeting presided by himself on January 20 in Kinshasa," he said.

Muyej claimed Mukendi had, while living in Belgium, founded a group called "Mouvement Debout Congolais", or the Arise Congolese Movement, with the assistance of a member of Belgium's Chamber of Representatives.

"With the help of the Belgian member of parliament Laurent Louis, he increased his meetings with Congolese compatriots ... in the aim of preparing and finalizing their project to overthrow (Congo's) institutions," he said.

Louis, an independent MP, told Reuters that while he opposed Kabila's rule, he was not involved in any plot to overthrow the Congolese government by force.

"I am opposed to violence ... What's more, these meetings were totally public. There weren't any secret meetings to plot this or that," he said by telephone.

Joseph Kabila became president of the vast mineral-rich but chronically unstable Congo in 2001 following the assassination of his father, President Laurent Kabila.

While he won the country's first democratic poll in nearly five decades in 2006 in a vote endorsed by observers as free and fair, Kabila's reelection five years later was tarnished by widespread irregularities.

Twenty men suspected of belonging to another insurgent group were arrested in South Africa last month and charged with plotting to overthrow Kabila after they traveled to the country to seek military training and buy arms.

(This story corrects month of arrest in second paragraph)

(Reporting by Bienvenu Bakumanya; Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Richard Valdmanis)

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