Police holding three suspects in journalist’s murder

New York, September 1, 2006—Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo are holding a former soldier and two civilians in connection with the July 8 murder of freelance journalist Bapuwa Mwamba, according to the local press freedom group Journaliste en Danger and Agence France-Presse.

Kinshasa regional police chief Gen. Patrick Sabiti told journalists Thursday that the three men were detained July 25 in the southwestern port city of Matadi. AFP said the three had been charged with murder but no date had been set for a court appearance. They were named as Vungu Mbembé, an army deserter, Mangenele Lowawi and Kunku Makwala Sekula.

Police said they had recovered a gun that they believed to be the murder weapon. They said the motive for the killing was robbery.

Mwamba bled to death after being shot by men who burst into his home in the capital, Kinshasa. The day before his death, he had published a commentary in the daily Le Phare, criticizing Congolese authorities and the international community for what he deemed to be the failure of DRC’s political transition. For more information on this case, see CPJ’s July 10 news alert.

“If these men are brought to trial, the hearing must be fair and open,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is vital that the truth be found in the killing of our colleague Bapuwa Mwamba.”

Mwamba’s death followed the still unsolved murder of veteran political affairs writer Franck Kangundu, who was slain in November 2005.

For more information on the murder of Franck Kangundu and his wife Hélène Mpaka, see CPJ’s November 3 news alert and February 10 protest letter.