He's got a winning smile, but the Democratic Republic of Congo isn't laughing.
Belgian member of parliament Laurent Louis, pictured above, was accused of conspiring to overthrow the Congolese government on Friday in an alleged plot that included the assassination of Congo's president, Joseph Kabila.
The bizarre story centers on a Belgian doctor named Jean-Pierre Kanku Mukendi and an ex-cop named Isidore Madimba Mongombe who were arrested last month before confessing to the plot. Mukendi and Mongombe claim Louis was also involved in the conspiracy, which included "small quantity of weapons" and the goal of assassinating Kabila. Reuters has the details:
"(Mukendi) admitted that this plan to attack the city of Kinshasa and physically eliminate the head of state was adopted at a large meeting presided by himself on January 20 in Kinshasa," he said.
Muyej claimed Mukendi had, while living in Belgium, founded a group called "Mouvement Debout Congolais", or the Arise Congolese Movement, with the assistance of a member of Belgium's Chamber of Representatives.
"With the help of the Belgian member of parliament Laurent Louis, he increased his meetings with Congolese compatriots ... in the aim of preparing and finalizing their project to overthrow (Congo's) institutions," he said.
Louis admitted to Reuters that he opposed Congo's ruling party, but denied any role in attempting to overthrow the government. "I am opposed to violence ... What's more, these meetings were totally public. There weren't any secret meetings to plot this or that," he said.
So at this point, it's Louis's word against the Congolese government's. Details about this toothy-grinned Belgian are slim. According to Congolese reports from the last year (translated through Google Translate), Laurent has consistently opposed Kabila's leadership. In the biography on his website, he says he was born in 1980 and learned "respect of certain values such as hard work, respect and justice." The only mention of Congo is in a section about his fondest memory: Meeting Étienne Tshisekedi, a longtime Congolese opposition leader and former prime minister of the country (formerly called Zaire). Time to hire a lawyer?
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.