It was a sigh of relief and joy when the Mai-Mai Malaika militia in Democratic Republic of Congo set free a South African man who has been held in captivity for over 40 days.
Philip Botha was released on September 5, with an overgrown beard and looking emaciated – by the time of his kidnap, was working for the BANRO Company.
Mai Mai attacks on on Namoya and Banro’s Twangiza mine in neighbouring South Kivu province at one stage seemed to throw the company’s survival into question, although it has managed to keep running.
He was captured on July 26 with two Congolese and one Mozambican by the Mai-Mai Malaika in Salamabila.
“We are in joy, all of us! He is in good health, although he has melted a little. But we are delighted because he is in our hands,” said the governor of Maniema, Augustin Musafiri.
This Thursday, Botha was released and handed over to the Maniema civil society president who, in turn, handed him over to the provincial authorities in front of a large crowd at Kindu airport.
The governor Musafiri thanked the people of Kabambare territory for negotiations between the authorities and the Mai-Mai for the release of Philip Botha.
Meanwhile, the DRC Army has given the deadline for voluntary surrender to all Mai-Mai groups who scour the region of Lubero and Beni; before the hunt is launched against all the refractories.
The spokesman of the FARDC operational sector North Kivu Sokola 1, Major Mak Hazukay, says the army is aware that these militias are roaming freely in Chabirimu and Chanika hills to the west coast of Lake Edward.
“They (militiamen) are committing a lot of abuses, they kidnap people and extort property and even loot some animals in the fields. Their presence causes terror among the population,” said the governor of this territory.