Police in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrested Ne Muanda Nsemi, a self-styled prophet and leader of a separatist religious sect, following gunfire in Kinshasa.
The arrest of Nsemi, whose Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) group dreams of restoring the Kongo kingdom that thrived for centuries before the colonial era around the mouth of the Congo River, took place after clashes with police last week in a neighbouring province, in which 14 BDK members died.
Nsemi, a former member of parliament, has a strong following in western Congo and was been a thorn in the side of successive governments.
He was arrested in March 2017 after leading protests against former President Joseph Kabila, only to be broken out of prison by supporters two months later.
Police announced his arrest on Twitter in an operation on Friday, saying: “Mission accomplished, it’s done.”
Kinshasa police chief Sylvano Kasongo said several officers were injured in the raid. A Reuters witness said Nsemi followers tried to protect his house in the plush Ma Campagne neighbourhood throwing palm nuts at police, who fired weapons as they moved in.
It was not clear if there were casualties among Nsemi supporters and a BDK spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Congolese security forces killed more than 300 BDK members and bystanders in crackdowns on violent protests in 2007 and 2008, dumping bodies in the Congo River or mass graves, rights groups say.
After escaping from prison in 2017, Nsemi spent two years on the run before re-appearing at a news conference in Kinshasa last year, pledging to contribute to the development of the country.
He remained in Kinshasa the past year, lashing out at Tshisekedi and others with xenophobic slurs accusing them of having ties to Congo’s eastern neighbour Rwanda.
“He terrorised people in the neighbourhood. We are happy with his arrest. He belongs in prison,” a neighbour told Reuters.