Vital Kamerhe, the chief of staff to the president of Congo, was arrested on Wednesday after testifying in an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of public funds, police stated.
Kamerhe’s arrest was a blow to President Felix Tshisekedi, who took energy in January final yr after campaigning on guarantees to wash up corruption, which watchdog teams stated flourished underneath his long-serving predecessor, Joseph Kabila.
Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Kasongo Mwema, stated he had no remark. “The president doesn’t touch upon the choices of the justice system,” he stated.
The arrest adopted hours of testimony on the public prosecutor’s workplace. Outside, police used tear fuel to disperse a massive group of Kamerhe’s supporters and implement a ban on conferences of greater than 20 individuals in response to the Corona Virus pandemic.
His supporters additionally protested in his hometown, Bukavu, in japanese Congo, the place about 300 of them burned tires and blocked the street outdoors his get together headquarters.
After the testimony, Kamerhe was pushed by police to the Makala jail, Sylvano Kasongo, the police chief of the capital, Kinshasa, informed Reuters.
It was not instantly clear how lengthy Kamerhe can be held or whether or not he can be charged with a criminal offense. Reuters was not instantly capable of contact his lawyer. Kamerhe has denied all allegations of impropriety.
Tshisekedi has touted his efforts to root out endemic corruption in Congo, however activists have criticized his authorities’s spending on a $304-million public works program as missing transparency.
Kamerhe, particularly, has confronted scrutiny for his function in the spending on roads, bridges and social housing.
Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) get together joined forces with Tshesekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) within the run-up to the December 2018 election. Tshisekedi promised to again the UNC’s candidate within the subsequent election in 2023.
The arrest might trigger the collapse of the coalition, however that will have already been within the playing cards, stated Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group at New York University.
“The coalition was necessary forward of the elections, however ever since he was inaugurated, there have been individuals round Tshisekedi pushing him to get rid of Vital,” Stearns stated.