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Why are Congolese rebels praising Nelson Mandela on Twitter?

Nelson Mandela is back in the news this week with the announcement that he's once again in the hospital and in fragile condition. And while the legacy of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary leader is open to debate, there's no denying that he's often turned to as a source of inspiration. Apparently, that even applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's M23 rebel militia.

On Monday, a Twitter account that appears to be run by members of the rebel movement published a series of tweets quoting Mandela and hailing freedom and peacemaking -- not exactly what you'd expect from an armed group that has used violence to battle the Congolese government since 2012

 

Not surprisingly, the rebel army's decision to invoke one of the world's greatest peacemakers has ruffled a few feathers. 

 

So what explains M23's love of Mandela? It's not entirely clear, but M23 members have argued that they have Madiba's principles on their side in their struggle with the Congolese government. "I appeal to our brothers, the South Africans, not to allow an individual or a group of individuals to discard the values that have built their nation and for which values Nelson Mandela sacrificed his youth," declared M23 youth leader Ali Musagara last month, in urging South Africa not to support Kinshasa.

And hey, given that M23 leaders are currently trying to hash out peace talks with the Congolese government, maybe they actually are inspired. The group has already suggested that just like Mandela, who was once labeled a terrorist, M23 may one day be known for brokering peace, not waging war. 

ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

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Ai Weiwei says U.S. surveillance reminds him of China

Chinese activist Ai Weiwei has had his share of experience with heavy-handed treatment by the government, having been detained for 81 days by China's secret police in 2011. Now the Beijing-based artist says another country reminds him of China: the United States.

In a column in the Guardian this morning, Ai harshly criticizes the U.S. government for the NSA's PRISM Internet surveillance program -- a program the Guardian has been at the forefront of reporting on over the past week.

"Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values," Ai writes. "There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly. I think especially that a nation like the US, which is technically advanced, should not take advantage of its power. It encourages other nations."

In another comparison that Americans are unlikely to appreciate, Ai adds, "In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power."

Praise for Edward Snowden, the leaker behind the PRISM story who was last seen in Hong Kong, has been widespread in China.

"This is the definition of heroism," wrote one Chinese blogger. "Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country's citizens. All countries need someone like him!"

"This young fellow truly is a human rights warrior!" declared the well-known nationalist writer Wang Xiaodong. "He has now fled to Chinese territory, and must be protected. We must withstand U.S. pressure, and make a contribution to world human rights!"

Ai doesn't mention Snowden explicitly in his column, but the Chinese dissident may very well feel the same way.

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages