A Swede, Bjoern Rugsten, who is one of the 26 hostages kidnapped by the Mayi-Mayi warriors in Mangina, northeastern DRC, has begged for international help in a taped message heard by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday. Rugsten, a truck supplier for DAR-Forest, a Thai-Ugandan logging company, was visiting the compound of the enterprise when he was abducted on 15 May, along with a Kenyan and 24 Thai nationals, an HRW statement said. Negotiations for the release of the hostages broke down when the Mayi-Mayi, opposed to foreign occupation of the DRC, insisted on the pullback of soldiers from the occupying Ugandan army and from the local Ugandan ally, the Congolese Liberation Front (CLF). Both these armies have reportedly sent reinforcements to the area, apparently to prepare an attack to try free the hostages. “When Mayi-Mayi learned of the arrival of the reinforcements, they promptly moved the hostages to a new location,” HRW said.
In the taped message, played by telephone to HRW, Rugsten appealed to all the concerned parties and to the international community, saying, “Please don’t consider the use of force as an option to free us. This will put our lives in danger.” “I am sure that the governments that are present in the Congo are mature, and I’d ask them also to rethink what they are doing there,” Rugsten added. The abductors are demanding that representatives of the UN Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC) and one or more embassies in the region observe the negotiations. They named representatives from the US, France, Belgium, Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Angola as people who would make acceptable observers. “Local clergy who have tried to arrange the release of the hostages fear that any attempt to free them by force may endanger their lives,” HRW senior researcher for Africa division Suliman Baldo said. “Civilians in the area fear also that Ugandan and CLF soldiers may take reprisals on them because they are thought to support the Mayi-Mayi,” he added.
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