Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. Picture: SOWETAN
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila. Picture: SOWETAN

NINETEEN alleged Congolese rebels were charged at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday with offences related to the attempted overthrow of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They were remanded in custody until February 14 after they were accused of contravening sections 2 and 3 of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.

As the men, including a US citizen, were led away, supporters in the court brandished Congolese flags and shouted "Kabila must go" and "Down with Kabila". They said they were supporters of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who says he was robbed of victory in the last elections by Mr Kabila.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court the men were all arrested in Limpopo on February 5 as they were about to begin several weeks of military training at a farm in Modimolle.

Mr Abrahams said the arrests followed a five-month undercover operation by police and the training had been disguised as preparation for game rangers recruited to stop rhino poaching in South Africa.

Magistrate Maryke de la Rey told the accused they would be held in custody for a week while their documents were verified and their legal representation was organised. Several of the men said they had been assaulted when they were arrested and needed medical attention.