Kabila spared from testifying in murder of rights activist

Friday January 21 2022

Joseph Kabila, the former President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

By Patrick Ilunga

The military court in Kinshasa has spared former President Joseph Kabila from testifying in a case in which his administration is accused of killing two critical rights activists in a police cell.
The Court said on Wednesday it had declined a request by the party pushing for justice for the two activists identified as  Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana.
Floribert Chebeya was killed in the police station in Kinshasa,
in June 2010. His driver, Fidèle Bazana, who had accompanied him, disappeared and his body was never found. He is presumed dead as the court concluded that he too had been murdered.
A police colonel was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the murder. But the case was reopened in September 2021, leading to several twists and turns.
Police officers suspected of having participated in the double murder and other witnesses have given various statements naming several names.
One such statement was given by Paul Mwilambwe, one of the police officers assigned to guard John Numbi, the former Inspector General of Police, who is now considered by civil society and the families of the victims to have ordered the double assassination.
Civil society groups have demanded that the senior government personalities including Joseph Kabila appear in court to testify. Others include Auditor General of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) at the time, the mayor of the town of Limete, Kinshasa,  John Numbi’s own diary man, inspector of the Congolese police (now on the run).
Lawyers for the families of the victims, who were hoping for Joseph Kabila's appearance to "bring out the whole truth" about what they consider to be "a state crime", say they are disappointed by this decision. But they say they will announce their official position to the court. The trial will continue next Wednesday in Kinshasa.
Under Congolese law, former Presidents are granted immunity against crimes committed or omitted while in office. According to this  law: "any former elected president enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution for acts committed in the exercise of his functions".