One of the main suspects in the murder of two UN experts probing mass graves in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been arrested after a three-year manhunt for the militia chief, officials said Sunday.
United Nations specialists Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp, a Swedish woman of Chilean origin and an American man, were murdered in March 2017 in Kasai-central province.
They had been investigating mass graves dug in a conflict between Congolese security forces and “Black Ant” rebel fighters in the that central region of the DRC.
The head of the local military prosecutor’s office told AFP that the suspect, Tresor Mputu Kankonde, was arrested on Saturday and was under interrogation.
“He is being prosecuted for several acts including the murder of UN experts. We have tried to arrest him many times since 2017 but he always got away,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Blaise Bwamulundu Kuzola.
The European Union ambassador to the African country, Jean-Marc Chataigner, welcomed the militia chief’s arrest and said he hoped it would allow a revival of the probe into the pair’s death.
US Ambassador to DR Congo Mike Hammer called the arrest “a step forward in the pursuit of justice”, adding that America would “continue to support Congolese and UN efforts to uncover the truth. No impunity!”
The trial of the alleged killers of the experts opened three years ago and has not seen any real progress.
But a lawyer for some of the defendants, Tresor Kabangu, said Kankonde’s arrest was a “big catch”.
Before he was arrested, Kandonde was in the process of reorganising the “Black Ant” militia with a view to attacking the city of Kananga, a Congolese security source told AFP.
The regional violence, which left around 3,400 people dead, was triggered in 2016 when security forces killed a tribal leader who was a prominent regional opponent of the Kinshasa regime.