KINSHASA: A self-proclaimed “prophet" and televangelist blamed for violence that killed more than 100 people in DR Congo's two main cities on Tuesday denied fleeing the country and called on the president to resign.
Supporters of Joseph Mukungubila Mutombo, who describes himself as God's “last envoy to humanity after Jesus Christ and Paul of Tarsus", blamed the army for deadly unrest in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi which he called a “massacre".
The government said its forces had fought back a “terrorist offensive" on Monday, including attacks on the airport, the main army headquarters in the capital and in the second city of Lubumbashi.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said 103 people were killed 95 attackers and eight members of the armed forces and Mukungubila was now on the run.
“The death toll is heavy, very heavy," he told reporters.
Mukungubila, who ran for president in 2006, had charged in a December 5 open letter that President Joseph Kabila was colluding with the regime of neighbouring Rwanda and argued he should not remain head of state.
“He has, courageously, vanished," Mende said.
“He himself does not believe that his cause is right, a cause for which he is claiming responsibility in phone calls from a neighbouring country, or not too far away from ours. This man is a fugitive, he's on the run," he said.
The preacher told AFP by telephone the allegation was incorrect, without saying more about his whereabouts, and demanded that Kabila step down.
“Let him resign, let him quit," Joseph Mukungubila said.
“It is unacceptable that a foreigner should be the head of state. This is unacceptable," he said, referring to claims by Kabila's foes that he is Rwandan.
The pastor also rejected the official version of Monday's violence, which he called a “massacre".
“They (the assailants) were empty-handed. How do you explain that? Empty-handed! If you see the pictures of the bodies, there are no weapons."
After taking control early Monday of the national radio and television premises in Kinshasa and holding reporters hostage, some armed youths clearly stated they were acting for Mukungubila, whom they call “the prophet of the eternal".
His “Ministry of Restoration from Black Africa" said in an online statement published Monday that the armed forces had attacked the pastor's home in Lubumbashi on Sunday, drawing armed reprisals.
Pastor allied with foes of Kabila
They said tempers flared when the authorities in Lubumbashi arrested “children" handing out copies of the preacher's open letter, in which he “told the truth, that is to say we cannot have a foreigner at the head of the country."
Mukungubila, 66, has allied himself with foes of Kabila who assert that he is a native and a puppet of neighbouring Rwanda, which has long played a key role in the affairs of its vast western neighbour, as both invader and ally.
This claim is unproven and denied by family members who say that Kabila was born in a rebel camp run by his late father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who in 1997 ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
In his New Year message, Kabila called for “all-out vigilance" in the wake of the recent wave of violence and said that “the victory of our troops against the forces of evil does not allow us to rest on our laurels".
The flare-up came after news Sunday the country's top cop was dismissed and replaced by an ethnic Tutsi, sparking suspicion among some Kabila critics of Rwandan meddling.
Kabila was in the mining capital of Lubumbashi when a group of men stormed the set of a live programme by the state broadcaster in Kinshasa, nearly 1,000 miles away.
His absence from the capital and the ensuing chaos sparked fears of a coup in the vast mineral-rich nation but Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo soon announced the situation was under control.
“I was really frightened yesterday. I heard heavy gunfire while I was at the market with my two children. We fled," household help Chantal said.
The head of the United Nations mission in the country (MONUSCO) condemned the violence and called for the authorities to investigate.
Shops that had closed and inhabitants who had stayed at home amid the confusion were back open and on the streets of Kinshasa Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Monday's statement by the preacher's office described how a kind of divine shield allegedly protected Mukungubila's residence from army shelling.
“Then they began to shell the residence. The shells did nothing, they didn't even damage vehicles," it said.
Witnesses in Lubumbashi however told AFP Tuesday that the self-styled religious leader's house had been largely demolished.
On his Ministry of Restoration website, Mukungubila is described as “the prophet of God, by whom the creator is speaking to us on this world today".
In another somewhat cryptic post, the website says Mukungubila's birth on December 26, 1947 coincided with the fall of a star “of the same type as that of Bethlehem".