Site icon The Journal of Africa

DRC: Vital Kamerhe acquitted at the right time

Vital Kamerhe

The former chief of staff of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe, was acquitted by the court of appeal on Thursday June 23. As fighting in the Great Lakes region intensifies, could Kamerhe be "Fatshi's" trump card?

"The peacemaker" is back in the DRC. After a judicial tour, in five different jurisdictions, the former chief of staff of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe, was acquitted by the Kinshasa Court of Appeal.

The decision was expected, especially since the cancellation of Kamerhe's sentence by the Court of Cassation last April – he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2020, then to 13 years on appeal in 2021.

The journalist Romain Gras says aloud what everyone is thinking quietly: according to him, the timing is not trivial. The return of Vital Kamerhe comes as Tshisekedi is weakened in the east of the country, and “in the midst of a crisis with neighboring Rwanda around the resurgence of M23”. "The Congolese head of state could, in view of the next election, take advantage of Vital Kamerhe's influence in the region", analyzes Gras.

A hypothesis far from being surreal. If Kamerhe is hated in the seraglio of Tshisekedi, especially since the implosion of the Sacred Union, the former presidential chief of staff is extremely influential where Kinshasa is not.

As a reminder, more than ten years ago, while Joseph Kabila and Etienne Tshisekedi - the father of the current president - were fighting for the presidency, Kamerhe himself had built his own piece of political paradise in the east of country. Out of 5 million inhabitants in and around Kivu, 1,5 million had voted for Kamerhe in 2006 during the legislative elections and almost as many in 2011 for the presidential election.

A release far from unanimous

This influence of Vital Kamerhe in the Swahili-speaking region of the DRC had earned him the post of government commissioner for the peace process in the Great Lakes region in the early 2000s. Kabila or for the Tshisekedi, Kamerhe simply represents… eastern Congo. It is not for nothing that his supporters of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) call him "the kingmaker" or even "the peacemaker", he who has a reservoir of votes oscillating between 1990, 1,4 and 1,5 million votes.

Clarification: the advantage of Kamerhe is that, unlike the former intelligence manitou François Beya, he is not alleged to have any unofficial relationship with other states in the region.

However, the accusations of embezzlement that have targeted Vital Kamerhe since 2020 were the kick-off, at the same time, of the implosion of the Sacred Union and of Félix Tshisekedi's "war against corruption". Within the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the president's party, the release of Kamerhe is therefore very, very unpopular.

A piece from Tshisekedi's chess set

On the other hand, if Félix Tshisekedi intended to pardon Kamerhe, he could not have chosen a better moment. In eastern Congo, war is raging: a joint counter-terrorist operation with Uganda against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group. Then, for months, the offensive of the M23 group, supported according to the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the United Nations by the Rwanda of Paul Kagame.

All this is happening, of course, in the territory of Vital Kamerhe. From Beni to Goma, and up to the Burundian border, the Kinshasa elite has no control over the border region with Uganda and Rwanda. Otherwise, in the midst of conflict between the DRC and the M23, inter-ethnic tensions have greatly complicated matters for the government and the army. Political intervention would already solve this problem.

And, inevitably, the return of Vital Kamerhe should make it possible to improve the situation in the region. And allow, at the same time, "Fatshi" not to lose too much ground on the political level.

Exit the mobile version