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Senegal leader to appeal to DRC for release of activists


senegalSenegal’s President Macky Sall vowed Tuesday to appeal personally to Democratic Republic of Congo leader Joseph Kabila for the release of Senegalese activists arrested in Kinshasa.

Three members of Senegalese pro-democracy campaign group “Y’en a marre” (“Fed Up”) were detained with activists from DR Congo and Burkina Faso at a news conference in the Congolese capital on Sunday.

An American diplomat and journalists held alongside the campaigners have been released but the African activists remain in custody on suspicion of planning to destabilise the country.

Sall said he had instructed Foreign Minister Ndiaye Mankeur to make contact with Congolese authorities, adding: “We did what we had to do as a state, and that is to defend our citizens.”

“Myself, I intend to speak this morning, if the link is established, with President Kabila,” he told a meeting with foreign media in Dakar.

“It is not for me to judge if this is above board or not. My position as president of the republic of Senegal is not to get into this,” he added.

“My position is to ensure first of all, that the Senegalese members of “Y’en a marre” be released and returned home.”

Sall told foreign correspondents the activists “have not been abused, that’s what was reported to us by our consular authorities”.

Campaigners from the three nations gathered in Kinshasa Saturday for a meeting they said was intended to raise consciousness and mobilise young people about good government and democracy.

Security forces arrested about 30 people Sunday at the activists’ news conference, including three French reporters working respectively for AFP, BBC and Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

The activists still being held included Fadel Barro, the charismatic head of “Y’en a marre” as wells as fellow activist Aliou Sane and Senegalese rapper Fou Malade.

The group battled against ex-Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, whose bid for a controversial third term sparked deadly violence in Dakar in 2012.

Sall, who ousted Wade in elections that year, announced at the Dakar news conference a referendum to take place next year on reducing the presidential term from seven years to five.

“I was elected for seven years (but) next year, I will propose the organisation of a referendum for the reduction of my mandate,” he said.

He said he wanted to strengthen the country’s democracy by having presidential elections in 2017 rather than two years later

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