In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, justice decided on Monday to hand over the former director of Felix Tshisekedi's cabinet, Vital Kamerhe, to provisional release. Supporters of the presidential party have made no secret of their anger.
The Court of Cassation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has decided to grant provisional release "for humanitarian reasons", subject to a $ 500 deposit, to the former president of the National Assembly, head of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), Vital Kamerhe. Kamerhe had been convicted of embezzlement of public funds in the social housing case of the first 100 days President Félix Tshisekedi, of which he was chief of staff.
The arrest and conviction of Vital Kamerhe marked the start of Tshisekedi's clean hands operation. In the DRC, several ministers, soldiers and senior officials have been pinned down in corruption cases.
The release, even provisional, of Vital Kamerhe has both aroused the enthusiasm of his supporters of the UNC, and the anger of those of Félix Tshisekedi, of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) . Some have, in fact, demonstrated last night in Kinshasa. The Congolese press speaks in particular of "dissatisfaction of the 'fighters' of the UDPS" - understand the youth of the party in power, which supports the president in his approach to end corruption in the DRC.
On Kabambare (Municipality of Kinshasa), the fighters angry after the release of Vital Kamerhe pic.twitter.com/8KfzBT8oaB
- Erick Bukula (@erickbukula) December 6, 2021
Towards a possible return to calm in South Kivu?
An event difficult to manage, therefore, for the Head of State, who must deal with angry supporters, and assume responsibility for an inexplicable decision by the highest Congolese court. Indeed, the facts attributed to Vital Kamerhe are proven. And earned the former presidential chief of staff a 20-year prison sentence, reduced to 13 years on appeal. Vital Kamerhe's co-accused, Lebanese entrepreneur Samih Jammal, is still serving a 6-year sentence since the appeal judgment.
But if the decision of the Court of Cassation questions because of its perception, its security repercussions could just as well turn in favor of Felix Tshisekedi. Indeed, Vital Kamerhe has a very specific electorate: almost all of his supporters are from South Kivu. The region, which lies on the Rwandan and Burundian border, has been affected by several crises.
First, and since the state of emergency in the east of the country and the army's counterterrorism operation, South Kivu has experienced its first terrorist attacks in years, committed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF ). Then, since the last eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, a refugee crisis has rocked the entire region.
Where Vital Kamerhe, who has 1,5 million voters in the region little controlled by the state, which has 5 million inhabitants, would possibly intervene, is that the return of cordial relations between his supporters and Kinshasa could restore order. In particular, to facilitate the work of local officials, without resorting to the army. The latter being, according to NGOs, responsible for a majority of the abuses committed in South Kivu.
A political earthquake in sight
Politically, on the other hand, the release of Vital Kamerhe, especially if it continues, could affect the credibility of Félix Tshisekedi with his supporters.. While it is true that the Head of State cannot be held directly responsible for court decisions, this does not prevent the Congolese from holding it against him.
However, it is just as possible that the cassation appeal, which led to his provisional release, is not enough to clear Vital Kamerhe. However, the large mobilization of his party, the UNC, fears the worst. Today well installed in his residence, in the middle of tens of thousands of his supporters, in Bukavu, Kamerhe is very far from the sphere of influence of Kinshasa.
🔴 #South-Kivu: Temporary release for Vital Kamerhe @ VitalKamerhe1, here is the atmosphere at the headquarters of his party in #Bukavu.@ VitalKamerhe1 @uncrdc @ BillyKambale1 @justperryli pic.twitter.com/oXPGUa9SDP
- DAVID ALUTA (@ AlutaDavid1) December 6, 2021
The situation also raises concerns for the dozens of other corruption cases that have affected former politicians in the DRC. As a reminder, the first judge who deliberated in this case, Raphaël Yanyi, had been poisoned. For observers, however, the release of Vital Kamerhe could also worry Washington, which conditions its rapprochement with the DRC by the anti-corruption campaign launched by the Congolese president.