The results from an independent Dutch autopsy of Congolese activist Floribert Chebeya were made public yesterday. The plot thickens, really: they could not find signs of serious violence, suggesting that the cause of death could have been a heart attack. Apparently, Chebeya, 47, had been suffering from heart problems. They did find indications, however, that he had been grabbed by his hands and legs and probably handcuffed around 30 to 40 minutes before his death. None of this is conclusive, but we should recall that the initial version of Colonel Daniel Mukalay, the head of the notorious Special Services of the police, had initially confessed that there had been orders to torture Chebeya, but that his people “had gone too far” and he had died.
This will certainly be welcomed by Kabila’s people, as it opens the possibility that this may not have been a murder conspiracy after all. According to people in the presidency, the prime suspect is still John Numbi, the chief of police, who is still under suspension (but not arrested). Numbi’s people protest, however, that he was meeting the president at the time of the murder and was not involved. They say that he is being set up.
Numbi is one of the most powerful members of the Congolese military nomenklatura. Before becoming inspector of the police, he was commander of the air force and commander of the military region of Katanga. He was a key broker in the peace deals between Kigali and Kinshasa in 2007 and 2009 and has substantial interests in business in Katanga. He got his start in politics in the JUFERI militia in Katanga the early 1990s, which was formed to help the UFERI party win elections, but became famous in expelling tens of thousands of Kasaians from the province.