Sixteen people, including a doctor, have been sentenced to death in absentia for the murder of a Cameroonian Ebola expert, lawyers said on Tuesday.
Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, an epidemiologist employed by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), was gunned down in April 2019 at a work meeting at a hospital in Butembo, in North Kivu province.
He was one of many foreign medical workers who had been brought in to help fight an epidemic of Ebola in eastern DR Congo that claimed more than 2,200 lives before it ended in June 2020 after 22 months.
A military court in North Kivu on Monday handed down the death sentence to 16 fugitives, including Dr Jean-Paul Mundama, who were charged with terrorism and criminal association, attorneys familiar with the case said.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has not carried out executions since a moratorium was declared in 2003.
Lawyer Jean-Marie Vianney Muhindo Kanzira told AFP that Mouzoko was allegedly the victim of jealousy by local doctors. Local doctors earned an Ebola bonus of US$20 per day, whereas foreign doctors in senior positions could pick up more than US$20,000 per month, according to an investigation last December by a news website, Les Jours.
After meeting with four other local doctors who were angry about the different status, Mundama allegedly gave US$700 to a former militiaman, with the promise of US$20,000 more, if he and others “got the foreigners to flee,” Les Jours said.
Eight other defendants were present at the weeklong trial. Of these, two militiamen were jailed for five years, and a second doctor, Gilbert Kasereka Kasisivahwa, was handed three years for criminal association.
The international response to the 2018-20 Ebola epidemic, the 10th in DRC’s history, has been subject to much scrutiny. Tens of millions of dollars poured into a remote region in a poor country, creating work opportunities for many, such as in logistics and tracing. But it also stoked rivalries and jealousies between staff from the region and those from the DRC capital Kinshasa, and also between DRC hires and foreign hires. – AFP