DRC: Under what conditions has Vital Kamerhe been released?

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Tuesday, 7 December 2021 19:50

Vital Kamerhe, in November 2018 in Geneva. © FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP

We were able to exclusively consult the decision made by DRC's Court of Cassation, which granted Vital Kamerhe, President Felix Tshisekedi’s former powerful cabinet director, provisional freedom on 6 December.

A year and a half after he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for corruption and embezzlement in the 100 days trial – a sentence reduced to 13 years on appeal – Vital Kamerhe was provisionally released on 6 December. The Court of Cassation made this decision following a legal battle led by his lawyers, whose team was slightly reshuffled.

Augustin Fataki wa Luhindi and Pulusi Eka Hugues have recently joined the case. The latter, who had obtained the release of Dr Eteni Longondo, a former health minister and UDPS executive, played a key role.

Discretion and limited scope

The Court of Cassation justified its decision on the basis of Kamerhe’s medical reports. Several reports written up during his detention – which are dated 20, 21 and 24 April 2020, 18 December 2020, 30 March 2021, 8 April 2021 and 27 October 2021 – mention an “intraventricular rectal hypertrophy and diastolic insufficiency.”

The judges noted that the health of Félix Tshisekedi’s former cabinet director had deteriorated significantly since the beginning of his imprisonment and that he requires appropriate care outside prison, pending the examination of his appeal in cassation.

However, they have set several conditions for his release. Firstly, Kamerhe must remain discreet and may not appear at ports, airports, railway stations or other border crossings. Forced to reside in his residence in Gombe, he is only allowed to leave Kinshasa with the express written authorisation of the Court of Cassation’s public prosecutor and for no longer than 30 days – according to our information, he wants to go to Europe for treatment and rest. He is also prohibited from obstructing the continuation of the investigation.

Finally, he had to pay a bail of $500,000.

Reunion

Once the administrative formalities had been completed, Kamerhe left the Nganda hospital at around 23:30 in the company of a handful of colleagues. He had been admitted there on 23 August and had thus left Makala prison, where he had been held ever since he was arrested on 8 April 2020.

He arrived at his residence in Gombe, where his wife, Hamida Shatur, his children, his friends as well as leaders and activists of his party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), were waiting to welcome him home with religious songs and a festive atmosphere. The former chief of staff took the floor to thank those who had supported him. The UNC’s secretary-general Billy Kambale then took over, insisting on the need to maintain party unity. On this point, he was joined by his leader.

Tshisekedi in favour

Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff was convicted along with Lebanese entrepreneur Samih Jammal, his main co-accused, and Jeannot Muhima Ndoole. The majority was in an uproar over the trial, which his supporters described as a “political affair”, as the UNC leader was Tshisekedi’s main ally at the time.

For several days, the presidential entourage had been divided over the fate of their ally from the Cap pour le Changement (Cach) coalition. In the face of the Catholic Church and Moïse Katumbi’s threat to leave the Union Sacrée, the head of state had said that he was in favour of releasing Kamerhe, with whom he has kept in touch since his arrest.

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