Democratic Republic of Congo’s top police officer has been suspended to facilitate an inquiry into the death of a prominent human rights activist, officials said.
The death of Floribert Chebeya, head of local campaign group Voice of the Voiceless (VSV) and whose body was found last week, prompted concern from the United Nations and major donors such as Britain, France and the United States.
“(Inspector General) John Numbi was suspended so that the Attorney General can focus on his enquiries smoothly and make sure nothing gets in the way of the investigations,” Daniel Lubo, an advisor at the Interior Ministry, told Reuters yesterday.
Lubo added that a police colonel, named as Daniel Mukalay and a member of the police special services, had been arrested in connection with the killing but had not been charged.
The move to suspend Numbi was decided at a meeting late Saturday of Congo’s Supreme Defence Council, which includes President Joseph Kabila, his prime minister and army chief.
Chebeya was believed to be heading to a meeting with Numbi last Tuesday before he went missing. It is not known if he kept the meeting. Chebeya’s driver Fidele Bazana has not been since.
Numbi, formerly an army commander and later head of the air forces, has been one of Kabila’s top military advisors.
The incident, which has raised concerns from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, comes as Congo prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence from Belgian colonial rule.
Campaigners have long criticised the country’s record on human rights, saying activists are under increasing threat and several fear for their lives.
Chebeya, who campaigned to uphold the constitution and improve prison conditions, had been harassed by authorities in the past and a report this year by rights group Amnesty International said he was at risk.
Pic: UN Secretary General- Ban ki Moon