A French man and three Congolese men have been released after being kidnapped in March from a Canadian mining company in eastern Congo in March, Congo’s government said Sunday.

They were among five workers, including a Tanzanian who had been kidnapped from the Namoya gold mine operated by Canadian company Banro Mining Corp. in Salamabila.

“The four hostages, three Congolese and one French, were freed yesterday at 1800 [6 p.m. local time] in the Tengetenge locality,” about 50 kilometres from Salamabila, according to the Maniema Provincial Interior Minister Bonaventure Saleh Zakuani. “Their release came after several days of negotiations with the abductors.”

The five were taken by people living in Salamabila who felt Banro Mining Corp. was not looking out for the community in eastern Congo-Kinshasa, Zakuani said.

Rebel group left threats

The Tanzanian hostage was released more than a month ago, he confirmed.

The four released Saturday are on their way to Kindu, the capital of the Maniema province, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated those involved in the release, “in particular Congo authorities for their mobilization and the effectiveness of their action,” according to a brief statement from his office.

Mine administrator Balthazar Hemedi Kabemba at the time of the kidnapping had said members of the rebel group Rahiya Mutomboki left leaflets around the mines threatening its workers.

$1M demand

The captors had asked the Canadian mining company for $1 million in ransom, he had said.

The rebel group has criticized the mining company for not giving access or jobs to young miners who had been working on the site before it took over. Its members were also seeking a guarantee that the company will carry out basic contractual agreements to build infrastructure in the area, including schools, roads and a health centre, Kabemba had said.

Banro Corp. issued a brief statement Sunday night saying its priority to reunite the employees with their families.

It did not elaborate on what it called “a long and difficult ordeal” for the employees.

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