Assassination in Kinshasa

One week ago, on Thursday, July 13, Congolese opposition figure Chérubin Okende was found dead in his car riddled with bullets. Mr. Okende is a former transportation minister in the Tshisekedi Administration, member of parliament and spokesperson for presidential candidate Moise Katumbi’s Ensemble Pour La Republique political party.

Okende was reported kidnapped from the front of the Constitutional Court on July 12th, the day before his assassination. He was summoned by the court to declare his assets upon having stepped down from his post in the government. The sequence of events leading up to his killing has led some observers to compare his death to that of Floribert Chebeya in 2010. Chebeya was a human rights activist who was summoned by the Kabila administration and later found dead in the backseat of his car, ultimately at the hands of the regime’s security officials.

It is not yet clear who is responsible for the killing of Cherubin Okende. President Tshisekedi and his administration have called for a thorough investigation. The government said that they have invited independent investigators from South Africa, France, Belgium, and the United Nations to participate in the investigation. Moise Katumbi’s political party, Ensemble pour la Republique along with other opposition parties and figures, civil society organizations, the Catholic Church and human rights organizations have called for an independent investigation into the assassination of Okende.

The opposition forces view the assassination as a product of increasing state repression and intolerant rhetoric even by President Tshisekedi himself. They often cite a speech he gave in his home base in Mbuji-Mayi at the end of June when responded forcefully to critiques of his government’s latest crackdown on the opposition by stating “No matter what they say, violation of human rights, deprivation of liberty, I will not budge.” Several political figures have been jailed without trial, most notably Katumbi’s senior advisor, Salomon Kalonda.  In what may be seen as an attempt to relieve the obvious pressure that has been placed on the Tshiskedi Administration due to opposition suspicions of government involvement in the assassination of Okende, the Administration released opposition figure Franck Diango who was abducted by government security forces and jailed in a military prison since mid-June.

With less than six months to go before the December 20th presidential and parliamentary elections, the stakes are high and the political climate in the country is increasingly tense.

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The Friends of the Congo (FOTC) is a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The FOTC was established at the behest of Congolese human rights and grassroots institutions in 2004, to work together to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. FOTC can be contacted at: Read other articles by Friends, or visit Friends's website.