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25.03.2021 Congo

Outrage over murder of DR Congo rights activist

By AFP
Former police chief John Numbi, centre, pictured in January 2011 at the trial of policemen accused of killing rights activist Floribert Chebeya.  By Junior KANNAH (AFP)
LISTEN MAR 25, 2021
Former police chief John Numbi, centre, pictured in January 2011 at the trial of policemen accused of killing rights activist Floribert Chebeya. By Junior KANNAH (AFP)

Prosecutors in the Democratic Republic of Congo have launched an investigation into a former police chief over the high-profile murder of a human rights activist, the justice ministry said Thursday.

General John Numbi is suspected of orchestrating the killing of Floribert Chebeya, whose body was found in his car on the outskirts of Kinshasa in June 2010.

"Denunciations of General John Numbi... have been brought to the attention of the judicial authorities," the DRC's acting justice minister, Bernard Takahishe Ngumbi, told AFP.

"At a minimum, a judicial process is launched" in such circumstances, he said. "This has been done. The public prosecutor is currently investigating."

Five policemen have been convicted for the murder, three of them in absentia.

But the European Union and rights groups called for a reopening of the case following evidence in February from two policemen who said they had taken part in the killing and that it had been ordered by Numbi.

Chebeya, head of a group called Voice for the Voiceless (VSV), had been called to a police station the day before his murder.

His driver, Fidele Bazana, who took him to the appointment, subsequently went missing and is suspected to have also been killed.

Numbi was suspended shortly after Chebeya's murder.

He was placed under US and European sanctions in December 2016 for a police crackdown on protests in the region of Bas Congo in 2008 that according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed more than 200 lives.

But in 2017 he was given an award by the then president, Joseph Kabila, a move that incensed campaign groups.

The following year, he was appointed armed forces inspector general, but Kabila's successor, Felix Tshisekedi, replaced him last July.

Numbi has fled to Zimbabwe, according to two sources.

Georges Kapiamba, head of a campaign group called the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ), said on Twitter on Monday that Numbi "took refuge in Zimbabwe two weeks ago" and his bodyguard had been arrested.

A source close to Numbi told AFP "Numbi is in Zimbabwe."

His farm near the southeastern city of Lubumbashi "was searched on Saturday by soldiers of the Presidential Guard," which was when the bodyguard was arrested, the source said.

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