Congolese reporter charged over UN experts' murder

Thursday September 23 2021
Congo PIC

Around 30 people have been accused of taking part in the UN experts' murder.

By AFP

A Congolese journalist suspected of having information about the 2017 killing of two UN experts in central Democratic Republic of Congo was charged on Wednesday, the military prosecutor's office said.

Sosthene Kambidi, who has been held since his arrest in the capital Kinshasa on Monday night, "is no longer being questioned as a witness, but as an accused," a senior prosecutor said, declining to be identified.

"The interrogation is continuing," the prosecutor added, declining to say what the journalist had been charged with.

American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalan, had been hired by the United Nations to probe violence in the Kasai region of central DRC. They were kidnapped and murdered in March 2017.

At the time, authorities said they were killed by members of the Kamuina Nsapu rebel group, which was at war with the state army. 

A video purporting to show Sharp and Catalan being murdered by the Kamuina Nsapu has been broadcast on state television.

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The prosecution is investigating how Kambidi came into possession of the video and who gave it to him.

Kambidi, who has worked as a freelancer for AFP and at the Congolese online news site Actualite.cd in Kananga, capital of Kasai Central province, calmly told journalists from both outlets on Wednesday about being questioned over the video.

The journalist said he had been questioned by a Congolese military prosecutor and, via video conference, "people from the UN mechanism set to up to assist Congolese military justice".

Around 30 people have been accused of taking part in the UN experts' murder, but the trial that began in June 2017 has stalled and the UN has appointed a judicial expert to assist.

Kambidi was allowed to have a lawyer present. However, his lawyer could not be reached on Wednesday evening.

The conflict with Kamuina Nsapu -- a rebel group centred on a local tribal leader -- left an estimated 3,400 people dead and tens of thousands displaced between September 2016 and mid-2017 in the Kasai region.