DRC former minister and opposition figure Cherubin Okende shot dead in Kinshasa
Ensemble party leader Moise Katumbi calls killing a ‘political assassination’
Kinshasa — A former minister and the current spokesperson for one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) main opposition parties, Cherubin Okende, was shot dead on Thursday, authorities said, raising tensions ahead of national elections in December.
Video shared on social media purported to show the bullet-ridden body of Okende, a former transport minister who was also an MP, slumped inside his car. Reuters has not verified the footage.
Firmin Mvonde Mambu, prosecutor-general of the Court of Cassation, confirmed Okende’s body was found in a car, secured with a seat belt, with the engine and air conditioning still running.
“Death came by gunshot. A gun was found on the passenger’s seat,” he said, adding that a suspect was being questioned.
Okende’s Ensemble pour la Republique party said he was kidnapped from the parking lot of the Constitutional Court in the capital Kinshasa.
A source close to Okende said the politician had just dropped off a letter in response to a court summons.
Government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya described the death as an assassination and said on Twitter it was a shock.
Okende resigned from the government at the end of December when Ensemble party leader Moise Katumbi, a businessman and former governor of Katanga Province, left the ruling coalition and announced his intention to run against President Felix Tshisekedi. He joined with Katumbi.
“It’s a political assassination,” Katumbi told French radio broadcaster RFI.
Political tensions have risen in the months ahead of the December election. Katumbi’s adviser, Salomon Kalonda, was arrested at the end of May and charged with undermining state security over an opposition march that turned violent.
Kalonda, who was accused of bringing a firearm to the event, denies the charges.
The news of Okende’s death sparked small antigovernment protests in Kinshasa, with demonstrators burning tyres and shouting “assassin”.
Katumbi called for independent investigations into what he described as an “odious crime”.
Tshisekedi urged the judiciary to “shed light on this case” and sent his condolences to the family, the presidency said on Twitter.
The EU ambassador to DRC and the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country also condemned the murder.
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