As chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, US Congress representative Karen Bass (Democrat-California) has the tricky ... task of threading the needle on the proper congressional response to the conflict in Tigray. She also represents part of Los Angeles, home to the nation’s second-largest Ethiopian diaspora community after Washington, DC.
Could Chebeya’s case be re-opened?
For the first time, two police officers have admitted to taking part in the murder of the head of the NGO La Voix des Sans-Voix and his driver, Fidèle Bazana, on 1 June 2010. More than ten years after the event, they have decided to give their versions of the story and have given various interviews.
Hergile Ilunga and Alain Longwa say that they were part of the team organised by high-ranking Congolese police officers to kill Floribert Chebeya.
According to them, the order came from the inspector general police at the time, John Numbi.
Ilunga and Longwa say they were later taken away from Kinshasa and moved to Katanga, where they remained under surveillance before managing to flee.
Will this new information make it possible to reopen the investigation into Chebeya’s death? Permitted that their safety is assured, the two police officers say they are ready to testify.
This is undeniably a source of hope for the widow of the activist, Annie Chebeya, who hopes the truth will finally be told about the circumstances of the death of her husband and Fidèle Bazana.
Are you hopeful about these new potential witness statements?
Annie Chebeya: I feel sad but also joyous, as I have been praying for a long time for the truth to come out. Are these testimonies truthful? I tend to think so. Until now, no one has given as many details about what happened that day.
Almost eleven years have passed since the death of your husband and his driver. Why do you think Illunga and Longwa have decided to break their silence?
Because Floribert’s blood continues to demand justice. Two days before his death, on Sunday 30 May, he told me: “Annie, if I am killed for my country, my legacy will continue to cry out, unlike Mzee [Laurent] Kabila, who was murdered but whose blood doesn’t cry out for vengeance.”
What my family wants is for these people to be punished.
What were you doing on the day that your husband was murdered?
I was with him. He had said that he was going to see the Inspector General of Police. I wished him a good meeting [with John Numbi, with whom he had the appointment] and that was it. I went out. And when I came home, he wasn’t there. So I called him. His phone was off, and I couldn’t reach reach Fidèle either.
Later on, I received some unclear text messages. This is when I alerted my elder brother and Floribert’s colleagues. The following day, I went to the Inspector General of the Police. I met with François Ngoy Mulongoy, the deputy inspector of police [accused of having erased the video recordings proving that Chebeya was in the police station on the day in question, but he was acquitted], and others, and they all told me they knew nothing.
Were you surprised that Illunga and Longwa pointed the finger at Numbi?
In my personal opinion, the real person responsible is former president Joseph Kabila. Floribert was a threat to him because he denounced what he was doing with John Numbi. Floribert was in contact with Aimée Kabila [who claimed to be daughter of Laurent Kabila]. He knew things. All these people were kept in office as a way of rewarding them. What my family wants is for these people to be punished.
A first trial already took place in 2011. Justice was not done in your opinion?
It was not a trial but a masquerade that my children and I ignored. We are waiting for the real trial to begin and for it to be exemplary.
Christian Ngoy Kenga Kenga, a police officer convicted at the trial but on the run for nine years, was arrested last September. John Numbi was dismissed from his post. What else are you hoping for?
We are waiting for John Numbi to be arrested and tried. We also ask President Tshisekedi to take away all honours this man, with blood on his hands, received whilst Joseph Kabila was in power. Numbi must know that Floribert’s legacy will follow him until his death.
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Do you intend to get in touch with Illunga and Longwa?
I will never meet them, nor will my family. Instead, let them answer to the law. We still live in pain. We continue to mourn our dead. We have not yet finishing grieving.
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