Felix Kaputo is a university professor in literature and culture, and a writer of fiction and non fiction, specialized in African studies, art, and philosophy. With a doctorate in English literature from the University of Lubumbashi, DRC, Kaputo has held numerous teaching and research positions both in the DRC and overseas, including the USA, Japan and Belgium. He has written six books on issues that include HIV/AIDS and women’s rights in Africa. His most recent publications are in the area of fiction and include the novels K-triangle de la mort: Descente aux Enfers (Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde, 2013), Power: Exquisite Meat (Xlibris, 2011) as well as Jo-Mary: Black Free Slave (Xlibris, 2010).
After a conference travel to Japan in 2005, Dr. Kaputo was summoned to a meeting with the principal of the university where he was teaching, the Lubumbashi University in Kinshasa. He was instead interrogated by a general. Accused of participating in a separatist group and of violating national security in Congo, he was subsequently detained illegally. He believes he was arrested on government orders as a warning to academics and intellectuals to remain silent in the run-up to the 2006 elections, among other reasons. Scores of other people, including opposition leaders and doctors, were arrested in Lubumbashi and the capital Kinshasa around the same time in connection with the alleged secession plot. Dr Kaputu was told he faced a prison sentence of 30 years or death if convicted.
Dr Kaputu was detained for 10 days in a local security cell, and then transferred to the notorious Centre Péniticiaire et de Reéducation Makala in Kinshasa, some 2,000 km from his home, where he spent just over four months. Prison conditions were extremely poor.
Following pressure from Amnesty International, the media and fellow academics, Dr Kaputu was given conditional release but was initially obliged to stay in Kinshasa. When he was eventually allowed to return to Lubumbashi as a result of further international pressure, he reportedly found himself under constant surveillance and unable to return to the university where he had worked. He went into hiding and ultimately decided to leave the country.
In August 2006, Dr Kaputu travelled to the USA under the Scholars at Risk (SAR) programme and taught at Harvard University (2006–2007) and Purchase College, State University of New York (2007–2008). He then became lecturer and researcher at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Japan (2008-2009), after which he took up teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, USA. Before he arrived in Krakow this year, he held a position as visiting Scholar: Professor at Ghent University (Belgium) at the faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
Felix Kaputo: In Congo, teaching, writing and thinking are open doors to prison