This May 11 opens in Kinshasa, the first trial relating to the embezzlement of funds allocated to the financing of Félix Tshisekedi’s “100 days program”. Vital Kamerhe, the cabinet director, still in office, of the Congolese head of state, with two co-defendants, the Lebanese businessman Samih Jammal, will be on the dock of the Gombe tribunal de grande instance. and the import-export manager of the presidency Jeannot Muhima.
Thunderbolt on April 8, after five hours of hearing, Vital Kamerhe is arrested and taken directly to the grim Makala prison. He has been held there since in a collective cell. His supporters are crying out for a political trial to rule out a potential rival in the next election.
According to the prosecutor’s requisitions, however, Vital Kamerhe and the Lebanese businessman Samih Jammal, between March 2019 and January 2020, embezzled nearly $ 49 million. The two men each face up to twenty years in prison.
“It was not he who managed this money”
The money was paid to the Samibo Congo company, owned by the Lebanese. It was intended for the construction of 1,500 prefabricated houses for the benefit of five provinces.
They are also accused of embezzling more than $ 2.1 million paid to another Samih Jammal company, Husmail. This corresponds to an advance of a global envelope of more than $ 57 million intended for the construction of 3000 prefabricated houses for the police and soldiers of the city of Kinshasa. Samih Jammal’s attorneys dismiss the charges of embezzlement because, they say, the construction is funded and is underway.
The third accused is called Jeannot Muhima Ndoole, in charge of the import-export service of the presidency, to whom money was given for the customs clearance of these houses.
But Vital Kamerhe’s defense is confident. She even insists that the trial be public (which should be decided tomorrow). ” I wanted all the hearings to be public, that the entire population be informed that our client is not a thief, not a hijacker, and today we see him as if he was already convicted “ deplores the chairman Joseph Guhanika Ganywamulume, who coordinates the defense of the president’s chief of staff. It is necessary, he specifies, ” that all these opinions do not influence the work of the judge who must be independent and decide in soul in conscience. “
On the merits, it ” don’t see anything in the file. It is up to the prosecution, the prosecution to provide us with proof that there has been a misappropriation. It was not he who managed this money, it was not he to whom the State made this money available, I do not see why they are suing him for embezzlement. “
Kinshasa leapfrog file
It is not the first time that the chief of staff and ally of the head of state have been cited in proceedings. Indeed, on July 31, 2019, the General Inspectorate of Finance made his name appear in a report pointing to the embezzlement of $ 15 million on money owed to petroleum product distribution companies. At the time, Félix Tshisekedi had supported Vital Kamerhe, assuring that this money had not been ” stolen from the Treasury “
It is ultimately on another issue, that of the management of the head of state’s emergency program that the chief of staff finds himself accountable. In early February, under pressure from the people of Kinshasa, Félix Tshisekedi ordered an audit on the grade separation site which creates traffic jams in the capital.
The Council of Ministers, dominated by the coalition of its predecessor, transforms this audit into legal proceedings and extends it to the whole program. The presidency never spoke about the arrest. Officially, Vital Kamerhe remains the chief of staff to the head of state.
► Also read: DRC: Vital Kamerhe and Samibo’s 50 million dollars
Feverishness in Bukavu
In Bukavu, his electoral stronghold in South Kivu, opinions are divided over this first hearing and tension mounts in the discussions as the time for the appearance approaches, notes our special envoy on the spot, William Basimike.
Independence Square, one of the main crossroads in Bukavu, all opinions intersect. There are supporters of Vital Kamerhe like Hope, in his thirties, who believe Vital Kamerhe victim of a political plot:
” Kamerhe is a great leader in South Kivu and the DRC in general. I think it’s a plot that doesn’t say his name. I am sure, very sure that Vital Kamerhe will come out with his head held high and will be the winner of this trial and those who plot against him will be so ashamed! I say it and I assume it! Our leader was in the National Assembly as president at the time, he resigned in 2009 and we never learned that he had stolen. Why tarnish its reputation today? “
Two steps away from him is Edouard, 35, whose opinion is quite different. For him, the Congolese people need to know the truth about all the good projects announced but which have never been carried out:
” Let’s not confuse what’s going on. We are faced with a situation which is clear: there was a 100-day program; we were told that in Bukavu there should be 20 km of asphalt road. Where are these 20 km? It is justice that can really tell us what happened. Why do you want to politicize? “
This Monday, Vital Kamerhe’s party, UNC / South Kivu, calls for a dead city day in Bukavu. “ Let everyone have a little rest during this day so that we can have the chance to follow the truth that our national president will expose in this trial and that each of us can know what is true and what is false in all the charges against him “Said Richard Bunani, the federal president of the party.
Civil society, like other political groups in South Kivu, is hesitant to follow in the footsteps of the UNC and justifies it by the socio-economic difficulties the province is going through following the coronavirus.