It was a joyous celebration for the families of the killers of President Laurent Kabila after they were finally released from jail. The twenty-three soldiers were the key suspects in the assassination of President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo two decades ago.
Kabila’s bodyguard reportedly shot him dead in his residence on June 16, 2001. This resulted in the formation of a military tribunal.
After a short trial process, dozens of military officers went to jail. Among those military officers was President Kabila’s personal assistant, Col Eddy Kapend.
Human Rights Group Reportedly Criticised the Jailing of the Soldiers
However, Human Rights Defenders in the country reportedly criticised this trial process. According to them, some soldiers became victims without knowing.
Moreover, it is still not clear who ordered the release of the soldiers. While many believe it was President Felix, there are allegations that western countries played a big role in the release of the soldiers.
Also, many people see the decision as a step to calm the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had attracted the attention of some of the neighbouring countries. According to this set of people, the power to pardon the prisoners lies on the shoulders of President Felix Tshisekedi.
President Tshisekedi took a rose to the leadership of DRC two years ago. He took over from President Joseph Kabila, the son of the President Kabila.
According to reports, 11 convicted soldiers died while in prison. Despite this, President Joseph Kabila, during his reign, strongly resisted the calls to pardon the surviving soldiers.
The release of the soldiers happened when the country is facing leadership instability. There is a struggle for power between President Tshisekedi and his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.
Despite leaving the country’s leadership two years ago, Joseph Kabila controls a bigger part of the country’s population. His party is also reportedly the majority in the country’s parliament.
This allegedly gives Tshisekedi a hard time running the government. Reports say he is currently seeking coalitions with the aim of gathering majority members of lawmakers. This is to enable the government’s agenda to sail through in Parliament.
The son of Col Eddy Kapend, Frank Irung Kapend, was among the happy family members waiting outside the court. He expressed his happiness, rejoicing that after 20 years in jail, his father is finally out with dignity.
During the trial, the court found Col Kapend guilty of masterminding the assassination of President Kabila. He was reportedly Kabila’s close aide.
Among those the court found guilty was the head of the Intelligence Department, Georges Leta. However, they denied the allegations.
The release of the soldiers marked the end of the push to free the masterminds of President Kabila’s assassination. However, the Human Rights Group, Dynamique Impunité Zéro, appreciated the decision of President Felix for listening to its call.
Furthermore, the DRC’s Deputy Minister of Justice, Bernard Takaishe, explained that the release of the soldiers happened on the grounds of the humanitarian. However, he noted that the release of the culprits would not rub out their names from the criminal book.
Also, Bernard cautioned the soldiers against involving themselves in illegal acts. Too, he said the step to pardon the soldiers were part of the president’s plan to have a peaceful country.