There’s been some noise in the past week about the unsolved murder of Albert Prigogine (aka Ngezayo), a wealthy Goma businessman (and nephew of Russian-Belgian Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine) who was shot in broad daylight in Goma on 13 March 2008. The lawyers hired by the Ngezayo family gave a press conference this week in Kinshasa to announce the results of their investigations. In particular, they announced that one of the military officers involved in the plot – called “Alex” in the lawyer’s document – had come out to denounce his co-conspirators.
The Kinshasa press conference was cut short after the electricity was mysteriously shut down in the designated room. A new conference was called on October 10th in Goma. Talking over a telephone during the press conference to conceal his identity, “Alex” related how Antoine Musanganya, one of the richest men in Goma, had orchestrated the murder. The motive: a property dispute between Musanganya and Prigogine. The latter owned a great deal of real estate in Goma, including the Mask Hotel, currently rented by MONUC, and 13 hectares along Lake Kivu, prime real estate (there were rumors last year that President Kabila had bought two adjacent houses close by for over 2 million euros).
According to a Supreme Court verdict, Musanganya had built illegally on Prigogine’s land in order to enlarge his Cap Kivu hotel. This verdict prompted Musanganya to concoct the plan. The list of others involved is impressive: it includes the governor (who denounced the accusations), the commander of a brigade of the presidential guard and the deputy commander of Kimia II operations.
It is not clear – other than to promote the truth – why Alex is revealing this information. Given the high profiles of the men he is accusing, it is doubtful that there will ever be a fair trial. As Collette Braeckman pointed out, Prigogine had joined the ranks of other eminent victims fo assassinations in the Kivus over the past years: she mentions Belgian businessman Claude Duvignaud, but I would add Dr Kisoni Kambale (businessman, 2007), Floribert Chui (RCD politician, 2007), Patrick Kikuku (journalist, 2007), Serge Maheshe (journalist, 2006), Didace Namujimbo (journalist, 2008), Bruno Koko (journalist, 2009), Pascal Kabungulu (human rights advocate, 2005). The list is long and distinguished. None of the above cases have come even close to being solved. So much for Kabila’s announced “tolerance zero” when it comes to human rights abuses.
Prigogine’s family is not a newcomer to controversy. His brother Victor Ngezayo was close to Mobutu and was one of the richest men in the country before the war, with a business empire spanning real estate, coffee plantations, hotels and mining. While Albert stayed mostly out of politics, Victor founded his own political party in opposition to Rwanda and the RCD, but then became an outspoken advocate of Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP.