Congo President apologizes for about 700 political prisoners

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Congo's new president, Felix Tshisekedi, apologized on Wednesday for some 700 political prisoners who were imprisoned under his predecessor.

Tshisekedi signed the decree and fulfilled a promise he made during his first 100 days earlier this month.

Released is Firmin Yangambi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2009 for threatening national security. Also released is Franck Diongo, an opposition figure sentenced to five years in prison in the previous government.

Tshisekedi was declared a winner on December 30 and led the Congo to its first peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium almost 60 years ago. He succeeded Joseph Kabila, who ruled for 18 years the largely impoverished, but mineral-rich country of Central Africa.

Tshisekedi, an opposition leader, has also promised to revitalize the judiciary and fight corruption in Congo. He made the statement in early March in the presence of government, military, civil and judicial authorities as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

The President has also said that he is actively working to create the conditions for a quick return of those who are outside the country for political reasons. On his first international trip to the neighboring Republic of the Congo in February, he called on tens of thousands of political exiles to return home, saying that all will be necessary to move the Congo forward.

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