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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Security Council Meets Over Killing of 2 U.N. Experts in Congo






NAIROBI, Kenya — Under mounting pressure to take credible action after two United Nations experts were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations Security Council said on Tuesday that it was meeting to discuss the case.

One of the experts, Zaida Catalán, had evidence that a former government minister may have played a role in inciting militia violence in central Congo. Ms. Catalán was scheduled to meet with the former minister, Clément Kanku, shortly before she was killed.

Congo said on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into Mr. Kanku and his activities.

The two experts — Ms. Catalán, 36, a Swedish-Chilean, and Michael Sharp, 34, an American — were shot dead by a group of men in March in the restive Kasai region of Congo. They had been hired as contract workers by the United Nations to investigate rapes, massacres and the exploitation of Congo’s vast natural resources.

The experts were given little training or protection for their mission. For example, the United Nations did not give them security devices to help track them in emergency situations, nor did it give them health insurance coverage.

Their deaths raised questions about the United Nations and its work in dangerous parts of the world. Almost two months passed before it assembled a panel to look into what had gone wrong.

The Security Council may order a more formal investigation, but it has yet to take concrete steps in that direction.

The meeting on Tuesday was convened to update the Council on investigations into the deaths, including those conducted by the Congolese authorities, according to Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations secretary general. Congolese officials said on Sunday that they had completed their investigation of the killings and that two suspects in the case would soon face trial, though no date was given.Photo

Zaida Catalán, a United Nations expert who was killed in March in Congo.CreditBertil Ericson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The New York Times reported recently that Ms. Catalán had been looking into whether Mr. Kanku played a role in inciting violence last year in the Kasai region.

Congo’s attorney general, Flory Numbi, told reporters on Tuesday that he had requested permission from the National Assembly to conduct preliminary searches of Mr. Kanku’s property. Parliament’s permission is required because Mr. Kanku is a member, and lawmakers are generally immune from prosecution.

Mr. Kanku, who was dismissed this month as minister of development, has close links to the militia fighters in the Kasai area. It is widely believed that he was brought into President Joseph Kabila’s coalition government last year specifically to bring the rebels to heel.

PRIVACY POLICY

Ms. Catalán kept more than 100 files in a folder on her computer under Mr. Kanku’s name. Among them was a recording of a telephone conversation that Mr. Kanku apparently had in August with a subordinate. In the recording, the two men are heard discussing militia violence generally and several specific episodes, including a successful jailbreak, the assassinations of a colonel and other officials, and the deliberate burning of Tshimbulu, a town in the region.

The recording surfaced on Congolese social media shortly after The Times published its report, and it was widely shared.

Questions remain over the government’s involvement in the militia violence. It apparently was aware of the recording before Mr. Kanku was brought into the cabinet in December.

Mr. Kanku tried to hold a news conference at his residence on Tuesday to respond to allegations about his role and that of the government in the violence. However, a swarm of police officers appeared on the scene, surrounding the house and aggressively chasing away reporters and photographers.

“We don’t want to see any more journalists here!” one officer shouted.

Mr. Kanku gave a written statement to one reporter: “I am convinced that light will be shed on this case and that justice will be given to the many victims of abominable abuses in the Kasai, including the two experts of the United Nations.”

Source By NYTIMES.COM
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