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Congo soldiers arrested for Radio Okapi journalist's murder

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MONUC today posted a report from Reuters that police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested two soldiers suspected of killing a journalist working for United Nations-sponsored Radio Okapi in the violent eastern Congo. MONUC is the UN sponsored peace-keeping mission in DRC. The report originated from Kinshahsa.

Serge Maheshe, a broadcaster for Radio Okapi since 2002, a nationwide radio network set up to aid the peace process in Congo after the 1998-2003 war, was shot on Wednesday in the South Kivu provincial capital of Bukavu. He has a wife and two children.

Maheshe, a respected journalist, had received death threats before, but U.N. officials said on Friday they still did not know if he was killed because of his work as a journalist.

"We have no evidence one way or the other. We know, at one time, he had a brush with the military but that seems to have been a personal dispute that escalated. We cannot yet say if it was politically motivated," Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo, said.

He was the third journalist murdered in the former Belgian colony since 2005. Maheshe had in the past been involved in a dispute with members of the military, it was rumored.

"The police tracked down the group of assassins and seized the weapons used in the killing," General Gaston Luzembo, the police chief inspector for South Kivu, told Reuters.

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"The two who shot the Radio Okapi journalist are active soldiers," he added.

It is unclear what was meant by "active soldiers." There are many militia in the area, but the Regular Congolese army, Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), is the only officially recognized militia.

Around 1,000 people were present at the arraignment of the two suspects in Bukavu late on Thursday, witnesses said.

Reports say Maheshe was walking from a friend's house to a U.N. vehicle late on Wednesday when he was approached by two men dressed in civilian clothes who forced the 31-year-old to sit down.

They asked his name and then fired several shots into his legs and chest. Several others also stopped by the gunmen were left unharmed and Maheshe was not robbed, U.N. officials said.

Several reporters have been murdered in recent years. Franck Ngyke, the political editor of a newspaper, was shot dead in Kinshasa in 2005, and freelance journalist Bapuwa Mwamba was killed at his home in the capital last year after denouncing police intimidation ahead of the historic elections.

The international press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders classifies Congo as a "difficult situation" country.

Maheshe is due to be buried in Bukavu on Friday.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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