Magazine article New African

Die, They Must. (around Africa: DRCongo)

Magazine article New African

Die, They Must. (around Africa: DRCongo)

Article excerpt

Despite pressure put on him to commute the death sentences passed on 30 people recently in connection with his father's assassination, President Joseph Kabila says the law must take its course.

The pressure has been intense. It has been coming from the United Nations, Belgium the former colonial power), the local Catholic Church and the US government (which has not abolished the death penalty itself). But Joseph Kabila (the youngest president in the world) says he would not overturn the court's decision.

His father, Laurent Desire Kabila, was gunned down on 16 January 2001 by, according to the official version, Rachidi Kasereka, one of his bodyguards who was afterwards killed by Col Eddy Kapend, Kabila's right hand man.

Among the 30 people sentenced to death by a military court in Kinshasa on 7 January 2003, are some of the key conspirators of Laurent Desire Kabila's assassination including Col Eddy Kapend, Col Alphonse Motindo Kitambala, Lieutenant-Col Kunda Ngelabo, special security adviser Nono Lutula and intelligence chief Georges Leta Mangassa. Gen Yav Nawej, the overall commander of the Kinshasa garrison was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Col Eddy Kapend, 40, was one of the most trusted aides of Laurent Desire Kabila. Both originate from the southern province of Katanga. He was in charge of security, defence and regional diplomacy. As chief of Staff, he secured a budget of $1,500 million for the army, which gave him considerable clout. Hours after Kabila's assassination, Kapend, who seemed to be the country's strong man, delivered a radio-televised message to the nation, summoning the government and the army for "consultation".

Joseph Kabila's spokesman, Mulegwa Zihindula, told a press conference in Kinshasa: "The president believes justice has spoken and he does not want to interfere."

Joseph's position is generally backed by public opinion in Congo which suspects "the hand that eliminated Kabila to be activating a 'forgive them campaign' on behalf of the culprits".

According to Gen Nawele Bakongo, president of the military court: "The trial is not over yet. Investigations are still going on. There will be other trials because we are still looking for other culprits who escaped. We have issued international warrants."

He did not elaborate on how "the other culprits" escaped and did not address concerns levelled by human rights organisations that "some big fishes in the late Kabila's entourage are still at large and that the mystery surrounding his death remains unsolved. …

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