DRC says opposition politician died by suicide

Saturday March 02 2024
okende pic

Chérubin Okende, a former Transport minister turned opposition MP, was found dead in his car on July 13, 2023 in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa. PHOTO | COURTESY


An opposition political party in the Democratic Republic of Congo has rejected findings of an investigation that showed its member died by suicide.

The revelations came nearly 8 months after the body of Chérubin Okende was found lifeless in his vehicle on a Kinshasa road.

The Congolese court  stated on Thursday that former minister Okende had committed suicide, as communicated by Firmin Mvonde, prosecutor at the Court of Cassation in Kinshasa.

The former minister "shot himself in the skull", said the public prosecutor at the Court. 

The body of Cherubin Okende, a former Transport minister who later turned opposition politician, was found on july 13, 2023, in his car on one of the city's main roads. It was discovered a day after he was reported missing. He was the spokesman for the party of Moïse Katumbi, the main opponent of Félix Tshisekedi.

His party promptly rejected the findings. "It's a denial of justice", said Hervé Diakiese, spokesman for Moïse Katumbi's Ensemble pour la République party. 


Read: DRC ex-minister turned opposition MP found dead

"Why is the autopsy report not being made public? Neither the prosecutor who concluded that it was suicide, nor anyone else witnessed Okende's last moments, apart from the killers", said Hervé Diakiese indignantly. "In this case, only the forensic pathologists, after the autopsy report, can determine the causes and circumstances of death. The public prosecutor has said it was suicide, but what is Chérubin Okende's bodyguard doing in detention until today?"

Okende resigned from the government in 2022 when Mr Katumbi left the coalition led by President Félix Tshisekedi. His tragic death occurred as he was due for a meeting at the constitutional court to "study and draft a report on the written declaration relating to your assets after your departure from the government," read a letter from Judge Sylvain Lumu.

On Thursday, Firmin Mvonde explained certain details, in particular those relating to investigations carried out in the deceased's office. "The MP was really stressed, very preoccupied a few days before his death", noted the prosecutor, before indicating that "two or three days before his death, he sometimes made unannounced outings, himself at the wheel, monologuing, addressing his bodyguard asking why he was not loved", said the magistrate. 

"He said in his own words that he was at the end of his tether in a diary found after a search... His wife made no secret of the fact that shortly before his death, he was very tense and preoccupied. This was the testimony of all those who were interviewed".

Firmin Mvonde promised that the Congolese court will pursue the investigations because "we want to know what really happened at the time when it was said that the former minister was preoccupied". 

Diakiese accuses the Congolese authorities of not wanting "the truth to come out about Okende's murder, so we have to go and demand justice elsewhere", he said.

Okende's biological family, who have hired a Belgian lawyer to pursue the case internationally, had also said they were ready to turn to international institutions to obtain justice in the case. 

A few days ago, members of the Okende family and his lawyers decided to bury the deceased without waiting for the conclusions of the autopsy report from the public prosecutor's office. This decision was taken after a meeting with the public prosecutor.

Sources close to the family of the deceased MP say that he should be buried before the end of March.