A defendant believed to hold key information in the case of two United Nation experts killed in Democratic Republic of Congo in March 2017 has now died in prison himself, raising concern from a Congolese human rights organization about the nature of his death.
Norbert Kengayi wa Kengayi died earlier this week in Kananga Central Prison after complaints of illness. Officials told local media that he was treated in the infirmary with his body later taken to a nearby hospital morgue.
He was not directly involved in the deaths of Michael Sharp of the United States and Zaïda Catalan of Sweden, but was arrested for alleged activities with the Kamuina Nsapu militia group operating in the Kasai provinces and was considered an informant.
Kamuina Nsapu leader Vincent Manga was arrested in March in connection with the U.N. deaths, while Constantin Tshidime Bulabula, chief of the village where Sharp and Catalan died, was arrested last December. Other defendants also face military court proceedings that have seen multiple interruptions and delays.
The trial resumed again in August. Yet now the rights group, Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme (OCDH), is calling for an autopsy in the Norbert Kengayi wa Kengayi death.
“Vincent Manga and Constantin Tshidime Bulabula, the alleged killers of the experts, depended on him. His death is a blow for breaking through to the truth in this case,” said OCDH leader Hubert Ngulandjoko in an interview. “That’s why we need to know exactly the conditions of his death.”
The OCDH also said it is concerned for other defendants whose testimony is important to the trial.
The bodies of Sharp and Catalan were found on March 27, 2017, two weeks after they disappeared along with Congolese aides near the village of Bunkonde. A video of their deaths released in April 2017 appeared to implicate the Kamuina Nsapu rebels.