At midmorning January 8, 2021 Bernard Takaishe Ngumbi, the Vice-Minister for Justice in the DR Congo, oversaw the release of 28 inmates incarcerated since 2005 for the assassination of former president Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
Mr Ngumbi was on Friday witnessing a symbolic gesture of pardon, which President Felix Tshisekedi’s office said was meant to show forgiveness, justice and “national reconciliation.”
But it was also political, as the 28, the initial group included 11 others who died in custody, walked out of the gates of Makala Prison in Kinshasa were also regaining freedom they claim had been unjustly taken from them.
President Tshisekedi chose December 31 to release the convicts who had been involved in the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the father of the man he succeeded, Joseph Kabila. The younger Kabila and Tshisekedi just broke their political coalition earlier in December, ending nearly two years of acrimony.
The freed former officials included a former colonel in charge of security of the former president.
They included Eddy Kapend, former chief of staff of the army, Lutula Nono, a former adviser on security affairs and Georges Leta who headed the intelligence agency.
This amnesty was organised in two stages: On June 30, 2020, at the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Independence of Congo-Kinshasa, President Tshisekedi announced the commutation. They had been in jail technically since they were arrested in 2001. The decision to pardon the convicts may show that President Tshisekedi is keen to show more and more that he is freed from the influence of Joseph Kabila, his predecessor.