Congo’s attorney general has opened an investigation into a former minister over allegations he played a role in militia violence in central Congo a UN employee was investigating shortly before she was killed.
His announcement followed a report by The New York Times that Zaida Catalan, a UN investigator killed in March, had a recording of a phone call between ex-development minister Clement Kanku and a presumed militia member.
In it, the newspaper reported, Kanku is heard speaking approvingly of violence perpetrated by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, whose insurrection against government forces in the Kasai region has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced over a million people since last July.
Kanku, who served as development minister from last December until a reshuffle earlier this month, declined to comment. He told Reuters he would respond later.
Attorney General Flory Numbi told reporters in Kinshasa he had written to the National Assembly to request permission to conduct preliminary searches of Kanku’s property because he enjoys immunity as a member of parliament.
“If at the end of this investigation, I am convinced the facts are established regarding the relevant charges, (Kanku) will be charged with participation in an insurrectional movement, assassination, voluntary arson, malicious destruction and association with criminals,” Numbi said.
Catalan and her American colleague Michael Sharp were investigating such acts in Kasai when they were killed in March. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in the same month.
According to the Times, Catalan had a recording of a phone conversation — which she told Kanku about — in which an apparent militiaman informs Kanku the militia has set fire to a town in Kasai-Central province.
“It’s good that we burn everything; that is good news,” Kanku is quoted as saying on the tape. Kanku has so far declined to respond to the claims.
Congolese military investigators said two alleged militiamen would soon face trial for Catalan and Sharp’s killings and that another 14 suspects were at large.
A UN board of inquiry is investigating the experts’ deaths but is not expected to assign blame. Sweden has also opened a police investigation.