KINSHASA, 8 January 2021 – Twenty-four people imprisoned for allegedly being behind the assassination of President Laurent Kabila have been released, 20 years after they were jailed.
Family members overcrowded the entrances of the main prison in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) to greet the 24 men as they walked out of prison.
Those released are beneficiaries of a broad presidential pardon granted by President Felix Tshisekedi to all prisoners who had served 20 years by 31 December 2020.
Eleven of those convicted for their alleged role in the assassination died in prison.
Polls over the years have found that an overwhelming majority of Congolese believe that the men were scapegoats.
Respondents to opinion polls ever since the 2001 assassination of Laurent Kabila have defended the view that he real killers got away while innocent scapegoats were made to pay the unjust price of imprisonment.
The former army chief, Eddy Kapend, is one of those released.
President Joseph Kabila, the son of the assassinated Laurent Kabila, became president after his father’s demise and rejected appeals to pardon the prisoners during his entire tenure.
The decision to pardon and release them from prison is not seen favorably by all Congolese, notably supporters of Joseph Kabila.
The governing alliance between former President Joseph Kabila and President Tshisekedi has fallen apart.