AFRICAN MIRROR CORRESPONDENT
THE hefty 20-year sentence imposed on one of the most politically powerful men in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Vital Kamerhe – for corruption, has sent a powerful anti-graft message from the government and placed the Great Lakes country on a political knife edge.
Kamerhe, a former chief of staff in President Tshisekedi’s government, has begun his sentence after a court in the DRC convicted him for involvement in fraud and corruption regarding a $340-million project to provide electricity, water and other infrastructure. The court found that he and Lebanese businessman Jammal Smith diverted $48.8-million. The money was earmarked for President Tshisekedi’s signature 100-days building programme.
While the move against his former ally has sent a positive message that President Tshisekedi will act against corruption even if it involves those close to him, some in the DRC are questioning the president’s motives, suggesting it was political.
Political sources in the DRC say Kamerhe supporters of his party, the Union Pour la Nation Congolaise, suspect that his arrest and imprisonment is part of a strategy to prevent him from running in the 2023 presidential elections. Kamerhe supported Tshisekedi in a deal in terms of which the president would back him for the 2023 elections.
Karmehe was convicted after a three-hour outdoor court hearing during which he wore a blue and yellow prison jacket and a mask as protection against the COVID-19. He is expected to appeal the conviction and sentence.