Kamerhe Vital, top aide to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi is currently on trial for corruption. It is an important case that has rocked the country’s political establishment.
Kamerhe, Tshisekedi’s chief of staff, is accused of embezzling funds for a government infrastructure programme. He has been in custody since April 8 and went on trial on Monday with two other defendants, a Lebanese businessman and another presidential official.
Kamerhe, once a pillar of the government of former President Joseph Kabila denies any wrongdoing. Kamerhe is the leader of the influential Union for the Congolese Nation. He previously served as parliamentary speaker and has been at the heart of the DRC’s political life for 20 years.
Kamerhe’s supporters say the case is politically motivated, and an attempt to prevent him from running in the presidential election. His arrest last month was met with protests in his hometown of Bukavu in the eastern DRC. Over 300 supporters burned tyres and blocked the road outside his party headquarters.
Charges Against Kamerhe
Kamerhe, said to have overseen authorising public expenditure, is accused of embezzling public funds. Funds that was intended to finance major works under a “100-day” emergency action plan launched by Tshisekedi after he took office in January last year.
The defendants have been accused of embezzling almost $49m from funds for building 4,500 prefabricated homes for poor people. They are also accused of allegedly siphoning off another $2m from a programme to build housing for police and the military in the capital, Kinshasa.
Kamerhe, who has not stood down or been sacked since being charged, denies the allegations against him. He says all public sector contracts were inherited from previous governments.
The trial was initially expected to be held in Kinshasa’s high court. However, it took place in the Makala prison compound where Kamerhe has been held for more than a month. The proceedings was broadcasted to the nation on television.
Resource-rich DRC is one of the poorest countries in Africa. According to the UN, 63 percent of the country’s more than 80 million people live on less than $2 a day.