Congo's Kamerhe says detained Reuters journalist has his support

By Leela de Kretser

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Democratic Republic of Congo Deputy Prime Minister Vital Kamerhe on Wednesday said he supported Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera, who has been detained in Kinshasa, but could not speak about the judicial process currently under way.

Kamerhe, who said he had been jailed in the past himself, said the head of state and authorities would speak about the rights of the journalist, who was detained on suspicion of spreading false information about the killing of a prominent opposition politician in an article published by Jeune Afrique.

"Stanis Bujakera is a professional journalist and he has my support. But I cannot say anything about the processes in justice in my country," he told the Reuters NEXT conference in New York.

As well as working for Jeune Afrique, Bujakera contributes to Reuters. He has been in detention since Sept. 8 in connection with the article about the circumstances of the death of Cherubin Okende, a former transport minister whose body was found in Kinshasa on July 13.

Kamerhe said he was confident that Bujakera would be released, but he could not interfere in a legal process.

Later, he told Reuters journalists that he thought that Bujakera would be free by the election, slated to be held on Dec. 20.

Congo is set to vote in a general election in which President Felix Tshisekedi will seek a second term. Kamerhe said the government was committed to holding free elections.

He said campaigning would begin on Nov. 19 and opponents would be able to run freely, and international monitors would be allowed into Congo at polling stations.


Kamerhe told Reuters that Congo, the world's largest producer of battery material cobalt, and a major copper producer, had reached an agreement with its Chinese partner over their Sicomines joint venture.

Kamerhe said that following the visit by Tshisekedi to China in July, both countries had reached an agreement over the Tenke Fungurume Mining dispute.

"With Sicomines, another Chinese company, it is 50% for China and 50% for Congo. Before Tshisekedi, it was only 20% for Congo," Kamerhe said, revealing for the first time the details of the agreement.

Before the talks in July, Congo had hoped to obtain a stake of up to 60% in Sicomines for its state mining firm Gecamines.

Congo had sought to renegotiate what it called unacceptable terms of the 2008 infrastructure-for-minerals deal with China.

Under the previous agreement, Sinohydro Corp and China Railway Group Limited had agreed to build roads and hospitals in exchange for a 68% stake in Sicomines, the cobalt and copper joint venture with Congo's state mining company Gecamines.

(Reporting by Leela de Kretser; Writing by Andrea Shalal and Dan Burns; Editing by Daniel Wallis)