Congo officials arrest former minister

Officials arrested Congo's former rural development minister as part of a government campaign against corruption, an aide to the minister said Wednesday.

Philippe Undji and two aides were arrested late Tuesday after hours of interviews by court officials, said one of his aides, Andre Mubula. Undji was fired from his ministerial post on Friday.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that there is significant evidence that Undji was misappropriating funds, and investigations are ongoing.

Undji told the AP after his hearing Tuesday that he is "at the disposal of justice."

"He who appointed me is the same man who dismissed me," he said.

Information Minister Lambert Mende confirmed the vice prime minister, Nzanga Mobutu, was also fired last week for spending too much unaccounted-for time in Europe.

Minister of Justice Luzolo Bambi said these firings and detentions are part of President Joseph Kabila's "Zero Tolerance" campaign to end corruption and fight impunity.

The African Association for Defense of Human Rights welcomed the release of certain ministers and senior executives in the public administration, and asked the government to make the proceedings public.

The rights group also asked the campaign to be extended to "policy makers, military and national police involved in the plundering of natural resources" in eastern Congo.

Critics, however, say that the arrests are part of a strategy to assert power before elections later this year.

Philip Biyoya, a political analyst and dean at the International Relations University of Kinshasa, said the initiative is part of the election campaign and an effort to placate voters who may be inspired by recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

"The government considers what happens in other (North African) countries, then it must show its good will to the people to fight against corruption," he said.