For Congolese justice, political opponent Chérubin Okende committed suicide

For Congolese justice, political opponent Chérubin Okende committed suicide

The former minister was found lifeless on July 13 in his vehicle.

It took 7 months for Congolese justice to reach the conclusion that Chérubin Okende, former Minister of Transport, deputy and spokesperson for the Ensemble pour la République party of Moïse Katumbi, the main opponent of Félix Tshisekedi, had given himself the died July 13.

The announcement was made on February 29 by the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, Firmin Mvonde. The magistrate explained that after “the use of experts in ballistics and telecommunications, after autopsy and toxicological analyses, Chérubin Okende committed suicide”. The prosecutor also referred to a mysterious notebook which would have belonged to Chérubin Okende and in which he would have indicated that he was “burnt out”. The following pages of this mysterious notebook would have been torn out, according to the public prosecutor at the court of cassation.

Central character

Firmin Mvonde is a central figure in this file. It was he, in fact, who a few hours after the discovery of the body a few hundred meters from the commune of Gombe, in the center of Kinshasa, held a press conference to announce that a suspect had been identified in what was then presented as the file of the assassination of Chérubin Okende. The public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation had in fact quickly pointed an accusing finger, without evidence, at the opponent's bodyguard, promising that Congolese justice would elucidate the matter. Government spokesperson and Minister of Communication Patrick Muyaya did not hesitate, a few moments later, to declare: “Chérubin Okende was assassinated in conditions that must be clarified. The government condemns this despicable act,” before adding that all services have been instructed to shed light on this heinous act.

Declaration of assets

This Okende “file” began on July 12 when the spokesperson for the main opposition party appeared before the Constitutional Court following a summons. “Chérubin Okende was invited to present himself as part of his declaration of assets at the end of his mandate as minister. He was a stickler for the rules. He had respected this legal obligation and had made a declaration of assets which seemed to be contested by the courts, which had upset him”, explains a close friend of the former minister. “He wanted a few more hours to gather all the documents needed for his response. It is for this reason that he returned to the parking lot of the Constitutional Court with his bodyguard where he was kidnapped”continues this relative, falsely questioning the figures in power who fulfilled this obligation… “Did President Tshisekedi make this declaration of assets at the end of his mandate?

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Pressure on Brussels

Several witnesses confirmed that armed men got into the ex-minister's vehicle in this parking lot of the Constitutional Court. Cherubin Okende was at the wheel. A few meters further on, the 4X4 stopped and another driver got behind the controls of the vehicle. This was the last time Chérubin Okende was seen alive.

In the wake of the discovery of the bloody body, after having promised to do everything to bring the truth to light, the Congolese authorities appealed to “friendly countries”, South Africa, Belgium and experts from MONUSCO (Nations united) to assist Congolese investigators with the autopsy. “It was August 4, explains lawyer Alexis Deswaef, who represents Chérubin Okende's family in Belgium. Since then, the Congolese authorities, so quick to communicate at the start of the case, have said nothing… Not the slightest information on the content of the autopsy. After the electoral hold-up, Félix Tshisekedi has cemented his power, he feels untouchable. We have to put an end to this matter”.

Laurent Onyemba, the Congolese lawyer for the Okende family, does not hide his dismay and his determination to turn to international authorities. “We have nothing to hope for from Congolese justice. We must turn to South African and Belgian justice. If these countries do not collaborate, they will be considered as accomplices in Congolese abuses. A whole people are watching them. We must also turn to African authorities.”

The family, in Kinshasa, prepares to bury the remains of Chérubin Okende “but we must protect the body as much as possible, embalming it to try to preserve the evidence as much as possible. One day, when the power changes, we will exhume the body to carry out new examinations,” continues Mr. Onyemba.

Alexis Deswaef, for his part, further underlines the threatening remarks of the prosecutor of the Court of Cassation at the end of his press briefing (“I invite journalists to do less gossip (otherwise) the public prosecutor may find that you have crossed the threshold of tolerability (and) we can get our hands on you!”) and notes: “Even in Russia, people do not dare threaten the press publicly. This Congolese power is endlessly arrogant”. The lawyer continues and announces that he will contact the Belgian Minister of Justice in the coming days to obtain the report from the Belgian expert and confirms that the complaint against the Belgian boss of Congolese military intelligence is continuing.

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