DRC: General John Numbi, implicated in the Chebeya case, has fled the country

By Romain Gras, Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala

Posted on March 24, 2021 12:44

Firefox_Screenshot_2021-03-23T13-26-21.563Z John Numbi in court, in Kinshasa, in January 2011. © JUNIOR KANNAH / AFP
John Numbi in court, in Kinshasa, in January 2011. © JUNIOR KANNAH / AFP

General John Numbi, who has never been implicated but is regularly suspected of having ordered the assassination of Floribert Chebeya and of his driver Fidèle Bazana, has left the country, according to several security sources.

Where is General John Numbi? This is the question that security services and the presidential entourage have been asking since the weekend. For a long time, Numbi – one of the most prominent generals in the Congolese army who has been placed under international sanctions and is very close to former President Joseph Kabila – had been holed up on his farm in Lubumbashi.

Untraceable in recent weeks, the former Inspector General of the Congolese armed forces has, according to our information, well and truly fled the country.

This information – which circulated on 20 March on the Twitter account of Georges Kapiamba, president of the Association Congolaise pour l’Accès à la Justice (Acaj) – was confirmed by several security sources.

However, General Numbi’s exact destination remains unclear. “The services that searched his farm were unable to trace him,” said a security source, who said the 59-year-old general “was first seen in Zambia.” A second source, this time within President Félix Tshisekedi’s entourage, confirmed that Numbi had gone to Zimbabwe.

The Kabila-Mnangagwa meeting

Neither Harare nor Kinshasa have yet confirmed that the general has taken refuge there. Zimbabwe is nevertheless a country to which the Kabila administration was extremely close. The former president visited Zimbabwe on 2 March at the end of a tour that took him to Abu Dhabi and Dar es Salaam.

During his stopover in Harare, Kabila reportedly had dinner with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Sidelined from the army in July 2020 after a major reshuffle within the Forces Armées de la RDC (FARDC), Numbi was in recent weeks confronted with a new testimony from two police officers relating to the double murders of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana, the two human rights defenders killed in June 2010.

Two trials have taken place and four death sentences have been handed down in this emblematic case, but General Numbi – regularly suspected by civil parties of being the mastermind of this crime – has never been questioned. This man, who was the head of the Congolese National Police at the time of these events, has always denied having played any role in this double murder.

Since the publication of these two police officer’s testimony, the noose has gradually tightened around General Numbi. The judiciary is also interested in several other protagonists of the Chebeya case.

Jacques Mugabo, who was sentenced to death in absentia in 2011, was arrested in mid-February in Katanga, where he had been living in hiding for several years. General Zelwa Katanga (aka Djadjidja), who was also cited by the two police officers as having been one of the masterminds, was placed under house arrest. And finally, Major Christian Ngoy, one of Numbi’s close associates, was arrested in September 2020.

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