“Other separatists have been hiding out in the surrounding villages”
The rebels entered the city on foot. I was about 20 metres from the group and could count somewhere between 100 to 200 men. They were dressed in civilian clothes and wore green, red, and white headbands to represent the colours of the Katangese flag. Several of them were armed. I counted around two dozen Kalashnikovs and many machetes, sometimes carried by children between the ages of 10 and 16.I think these men were trying to show a display of force. Above all, they wanted to demonstrate that they could enter Lubumbashi in any way or at any time they pleased, in broad daylight. It was a way to put pressure on the local authorities.According to the stories I’ve heard, they did not intend to fight but rather wanted to pressure the local authorities on Katanga’s independence. The army ordered them to retreat, but the separatists refused to do so, and clashes ensued. Recently, separatists attempted to take over the Lubumbashi airport and got into a firefight with the army. For this reason, the army was particularly suspicious of their coming to Lubumbashi. However, their defeat on Saturday will not prevent other men from threatening the city: several sources claimed that men from the ‘Kata Katanga’ have been hiding out in the surrounding villages.In contrast to the manner in which they’re typically presented in the media, these rebels aren’t all Maï-Maï. Some certainly are, but what really unites the whole group is their wish for an independent Katanga. They want this independence because they believe that copper and cobalt revenues are currently not benefiting Katanga enough, that these resources are unfairly dispersed throughout the entire country. The separatists also believe that the mines are disproportionately exploited by Asian expatriates.
“The separatist rebels thought the local residents would join their cause, but they were wrong”
In my opinion, the separatists came to the city thinking that local residents would join their cause. But they were wrong, because when they entered Lubumbashi, people really panicked. They fled seeing these men armed with AK-47s and machetes.
I don’t share the separatists’ desire for an independent Katanga. That would even further destabilize DR Congo, which has too many problems already. It’s a big country, very hard to build — it’s really not a good idea to break it up.I am also against independence because these separatists are linked to anti-Kabila groups [Joseph Kabil is DR Congo’s president] who want to destabilise our country. How else would they be getting all these weapons?