Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have deported a US researcher, Jason Stearns from the country. Officials did not give much reason for the action except to say he gave a false information to immigration officials.
According to the AFP, a diplomatic source said Stearns, the director of New York University’s Congo Research Group, was forced to leave the country on Thursday by a flight to Europe, from where he was expected to continue to the United States.
A senior Congolese official told AFP that Stearns “deceived the immigration service” over his place of residence in Kinshasa, adding that the researcher was invited to the DRC by “an NGO which is not properly registered” in the central African country.
You have to be very careful (before) naming names because you may end up in court and then say that there is no freedom in Congo… but people are also entitled to their honour.
Stearns was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency in an April 5 article about a person close to Congolese President Joseph Kabila whose name had appeared in the recent “Panama Papers” leaks.
The Bloomberg story quotes an email from Stearns in which he says the agency’s work on the documents “offers a rare glimpse into what we assume is a large and diverse array of assets owned by the president’s family.”
At a press conference on Friday, government spokesman Lambert Mende warned journalists in Congo against publication the names of Congolese mentioned in the Panama Papers leak.
He said some people cited in the leaks were ready to launch legal proceedings if their names appeared in the media, “because these people say they have no accounts in Panama.”
“You have to be very careful (before) naming names because you may end up in court and then say that there is no freedom in Congo… but people are also entitled to their honour,” he added.
Stearns, who spent several years in the DRC, especially during the 1998-2003 war, is the author of a reference work on the conflict in that country, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”.
His research group published a report in March on a series of massacres of civilians in the North Kivu province since October 2014, claiming that soldiers from the regular army participated in the killings, allegations refuted by Mende.