Congo-Kinshasa: Vital Kamerhe Gets 20 Years Hard Labour

In addition to the forced labour, he has been banned from participating in political activities for a period of 10 years after completing the sentence.

A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has found Vital Kamerhe, former Chief of Staff of President Felix Tshisekedi guilty and sentenced him to 20 years of hard labour, after facing charges of embezzling almost $50m of public funds. During the verdict on Saturday June 20, 2020, the judge said the 61-year-old ex-president of the National Assembly was found guilty of "devastating public funds".

The prosecutor's office also requested that the bank account assets of Kamerhe's wife, step-daughter and a cousin of the accused be seized, as well as "the seizure of real estate assets acquired using embezzled funds over the period from January 2019 until now". Much of the missing funds were intended to be used for the building of prefabricated social housing as well as military housing as announced by the president following his inauguration.

Speaking before the final verdict was given Mr Vital said, "True justice will come from God, when human judges are sidelined by true justice," he added, asserting that he warned his wife before the hearing that "the die is cast" concerning his legal fate.

Apart from Mr Vital, the court also sentenced a Lebanese businessman Jammal Samih 20 years of hard labour in the same trial, while a third man in charge of logistics at the presidential office faces two years in prison.

AFP news agency reports that Kamerhe's lawyers have said they will appeal, arguing that hard labour is prohibited by the DRC's constitution, while Anti-corruption activists have praised the verdict. "I sincerely think that this is a positive sign for the fight against corruption," Florimond Muteba of Congolese transparency organization, the Observatory of Public Expenditure, was quoted as saying by Reuter's news agency.

Kamerhe's supporters say the trial is a political move designed to prevent him from standing for the 2023 Presidential election as agreed in the 2018 rotation deal with President Felix Tshisekedi and his party. A former ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe is the most high-profile figure to be convicted of corruption in the DRC.

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