• Group says Stearns asked to leave over `undesirability'
  • Government says expulsion linked to immigration issue

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government expelled Jason Stearns, a director of the Congo Research Group, after criticizing a report that the organization published last month about violence in the east of the country.

Stearns was expelled April 7, the research group based at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation said in an e-mailed statement Saturday. The official reason given for him being ordered to leave was “undesirability,” while the government also referred to the group’s recent report on a series of massacres around the town of Beni, it said.

Congo expelled Stearns after he made a “false declaration to the immigration services,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said by phone Saturday from the capital, Kinshasa. He denied the decision was related to Stearns’ work with the Congo Research Group.

“According to the law, we could have tried him, and prosecuted him, and sent him to prison, but we expelled him,” Mende said, adding that he hadn’t been informed of the exact nature of the alleged false declaration Stearns made. Stearns declined to comment when contacted by e-mail.

The Congo Research Group, known by the French acronym GEC, described the immigration irregularities cited by the government as “minor procedural matters,” which GEC is taking steps to address.

Beni Killings

The GEC’s March 21 report into more than 500 killings that have taken place near the town of Beni since October 2013 was denounced by Mende at a March 24 press conference.

In response, the GEC said that the government had misrepresented its findings.

“Contrary to the government’s claims, the report does not conclude that the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo as an institution are responsible for the massacres around Beni -- rather it found that some its soldiers were involved,” the GEC said.

The GEC plans to submit another request for a visa to enable Stearns to return to Congo.

“We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Congolese authorities as with other officials on issues of national importance,” it said.

Stearns is the author of a book on Congo titled “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa.”

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