Jean-Marie Kanku, the editor and publisher of the Kinshasa-based newspaper L’Alerte, was freed yesterday after being held for 12 days. Members of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) had kidnapped him on a Kinshasa street and secretly held him at their headquarters for eight days before taking him before the State Security Court (CSE) on 5 November.
At the end of this court appearance, a judge ordered him to be held in a CSE cell. The charge finally brought against him was disseminating “false rumours.” He was released after paying bail of 150 dollars. L’Alerte is published three times a week.
Kanku’s release followed a meeting on 7 November between a delegation of journalists and one of the country’s four vice-presidents, Azarias Ruberwa, at which the delegation raised his case and that of other imprisoned journalists. The delegation also gave Ruberwa a protest note about the double murder of Franck “Ngyke” Kangundu of the daily La Référence Plus and his wife, Hélène Mpaka, on 3 November.
The same day, around 1,000 journalists staged a “silent march” through the streets of Kinshasa to protest against Kangundu’s murder and demand the creation of an independent commission of enquiry.
03.11.2005 Congolese press shaken by double murder of newspaper reporter and wife
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the double murder of a respected newspaper reporter and his wife outside their Kinshasa home in the early hours of this morning, describing it as the latest in a series of politically-motivated killings or attempted killings being carried out by a “murder industry” with complete impunity.
Today’s victims were Franck “Ngyke” Kangundu, 52, who headed the political section of the independent Kinshasa-based daily La Référence Plus, and his wife, Hélène Mpaka, 41.
“We are appalled by these horrible, cold-blooded killings which will send shockwaves through the Congolese investigative press, and we extend our condolences to the family and friends of both victims,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“It is outrageous that nothing is being done to bring those responsible for political killings to justice,” the press freedom organisation continued. “Journalists are favourite targets in this murder industry that is flourishing with complete impunity in Lubumbashi and Bukavu, as well as Kinshasa.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The United Nations must intervene at once to save independent journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo from the choice between silence, prison or death that is being imposed on them.”
The organisation wrote today to the William Swing, the head of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), asking him to put pressure on President Joseph Kabila to ensure that “justice is done in the case of this murdered journalist.”
The letter reminded Swing, who holds the title of Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, that no serious investigation has been carried out into the attempt murder of Radio Okapi journalist Jean Ngandu by uniformed men on 28 May in Lubumbashi (in the southern province of Katanga) or the murder of human rights activist Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi on 1 August in Bukavu (in the eastern province of Sud-Kivu).
Reporters Without Borders also reminded Swing that Jean-Marie Kanku, the editor of the privately-owned newspaper L’Alerte, has been held incommunicado for the past week at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in breach of all legal procedures.
Today’s double murders took place at around 1 a.m. when Kangundu and his wife pulled up in their car outside their home in an eastern district of Kinshasa and Kangundu got out to open the gate. He was immediately approached by four hooded gunmen who, according to witnesses, had been waiting for them in the street.
Kangundu tried to negotiate with them, offering to go with them in his car to get money. But the gunmen replied that they had been sent to kill him. They then gunned the two of them down in front of several neighbours. One of the neighbours, a man in his 20s, sustained serious injuries and had to be hospitalized.
The motive for the double murder is not yet known. La Référence Plus is one of the leading Kinshasa newspapers and has a reputation for serious reporting. A friend of Kangundu’s told Reporters Without Borders that one of his recent stories, about a sugar mill in Bas-Congo province, that had resulted in the dismissal of some of the mill’s staff.
Kangundu was also recently sent to cover meetings being held by President Kabila’s party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), especially in Bandundu province. He had five children.
Kanku was kidnapped by three armed ANR agents on Lumumba Boulevard in the N’Djili district of Kinshasa on 28 October after his newspaper ran a series of articles and interviews in which parliamentarian Thierry Bongo described ANR administrator Lando Lurhakumbirwa as an “enemy of the Congo” and accused him of embezzlement.