At least 19 suspected M23 rebels arrested in South Africa early this week have been charged before the Pretoria Regional Court for plotting to overthrow the government of DRC President Joseph Kabila.
The suspects were charged under section 2 and 3 of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act 15 of 1998 that forbids plotting coups or mercenary activities in foreign nations.
On 5 February 2013, the Special Task Force Unit of the South African Police Service arrested 19 alleged members of the DRC rebel movement in a remote area in Limpopo.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told court on Thursday the objective of the group was to receive specialised military related training and arms such as guns and air-to-surface missiles from SA mercenaries to overthrow the current DRC Government.
However, it appears, the rebels had unknowingly contacted undercover police who recorded all their movements and contacts until they were arrested on Tuesday.
The undercover agents reportedly took photographs as the rebels received some of the guns handed to them as bait and recorded on video their meetings held in South Africa.
According to prosecution, the combatants promised their contacts mining rights in Eastern DRC after waging a successful war in the eastern part of the country.
M23 have vehemently denied links to the arrested fighters.
The Movement’s publicist Amani Kabasha on Wednesday told Chimpreports they have no intention to overthrow the government of Kinshasa but admitted “M23 has within it, of course, many known and unknown supporters around the world who subscribe to the values we stand for.”
He added: “We are still amazed that a country defending democratic values imprisons people for the sole reason of belonging to a movement that simply assert its rights and moreover is negotiating with its partner in conflict.”
Kabasha maintained the M23 revolution is designed along the lines of South Africa resistance against apartheid “and our movement is inspired to fight against the discrimination that plagues the Congo.”
According to prosecution, the suspects planned to orchestrate a coup in DRC or launch a conventional war. The suspects did not take plea.
They will be held in custody till February 14 when their bail application can be heard.
Eastern Congo is home to over 40 militia groups, with some challenging Kabila’s authority.