NEWS

Ottawa man freed from Congo jail awaits passport

01/10/2012 05:29 EST | Updated 03/11/2012 05:12 EDT

A young Ottawa man who was jailed in Congo following that country's contentious election said he's still waiting for his passport so he can return home to his family.

Fabien Shambuyi Kalala, 26, was in Congo working as a security guard for presidential challenger Etienne Tshisekedi.

He was arrested at the airport in Kinshasa days before Christmas, accused of insulting president Joseph Kabila and jailed at the Makala prison in Kinshasa.

Kalala was released shortly before the new year but he said in a phone interview with CBC Ottawa's Alistair Steele he remains "on probation" and that authorities have his passport.

Confusion over passport

He said despite visits from Canadian consular officials while he was in prison and his own trip to the Canadian Embassy in Kinshasa after his release, he's still not sure what's going on.

"I don't know what they're doing, it's been since the 22nd of December, I ask ... the ambassador and I ask him if he can get [the passport] back, and he say not a problem, we're going to be engaged in getting back your passport," said Kalala.

"And so just now they're asking me a question: 'where's your passport?' Instead of me asking them, they ask me back," he said.

Since his ordeal began, the former University of Ottawa football player has been speaking by phone to family and friends in Ottawa, but he hesitates to say too much.

Contentious election sparked protests

Kalala said questions about his time in prison, the political climate in Congo, and his involvement in the election would have to wait until he gets home.

Foreign Affairs did not return emails requesting more information.

Joseph Kabila won 49 per cent of the vote in the 2011 ballot, according to the Congolese election commission, and was sworn in as president on Dec. 20. Tshisekedi captured 32 per cent of the vote.

But the U.S.-based Carter Center said the results "lack credibility."

The vote results sparked protests in Ottawa, Toronto and several U.S. cities, as many Congolese in North America said they considered it a fraudulent election.

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