Will DRC minister Clément Kanku's alleged role in Kasai 'genocide' result in ICC probe?

Skulls suspected to belong to victims of a recent combat between government army and Kamwina Nsapu militia on the roadside in Tshimaiyi near Kananga, the capital of Kasai-Central province of the DRC on 12 MarchREUTERS/Aaron Ross

Local media has alleged that a former Congolese minister could find himself on the doorstep of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was accused of inciting violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)'s restive Kasai region.

Former Minister for Cooperation and Development Clément Kanku is accused of having played a role in massacres perpetrated in Kasai, where a brutal conflict between government forces and local militia Kamuina Nsapu erupted in August 2016.

In March, the ICC's prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned that the recent acts of violence in Kasai - including the killing of two foreign United Nations experts, could constitute war crimes. The ICC has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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The New York Times (NYT) said on 20 May that one of the two slain UN experts' laptop contained 130 documents proving the involvement of Kanku, who is MP for Dibaya in Kasai.

In a taped phone-call, Kanku is reportedly overheard talking to a subordinate, discussing setting fire to a town in the region and planning assassinations of an army colonel and other officials. Local newspapers in DRC have suggested the politician may face an ICC prosecution.

This case is likely to take on very serious proportions sooner or later, given the "genocidal" nature that the UN and several states have already given to the killings that have already left hundreds dead in Kasai, according to Le Phare newspaper.

The Forum Des As newspaper, meanwhile, pointed to a recent report in which the UN said that the conflict was fuelled by leaders from the region. "They pretended to be peace makers, whereas they are basically fanning the fire," the paper wrote on 23 May.

The coordinator of the rights organisation ACAJ, Georges Kapiamba, told L'Avenir newspaper that "if Kanku's involvement in the assassination of the UN experts is established by the conclusions of an international and independent investigation, and confirmed by a court , the punishment must be severe both for him and for all those involved in these crimes."

ACAJ has called for an independent international inquiry.

DRC Prosecutor Flory Kabange announced the opening of an investigation into the claims against Kanku, who is expected to comment on the allegations today (23 May). La Prospérité newspaper, meanwhile, quoted members of Kanku's close circle as saying the politician will claim his innocence.

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