Hardy Kazadi Ilunga was just 21. A technician with the private station Radio-Télévision Mosaïque in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Likasi, he was murdered late Saturday by a gunman apparently wearing a police uniform, according to the Congolese press freedom group OLPA and local journalists.
Ilunga was not on assignment at the time of his murder–he worked part-time, occasionally speaking on the air during music programs he helped produce on Radio-Télévision Mosaïque, a colleague, Sports Editor Christian Mukubu, told CPJ. Ilunga was shot in front of the home his girlfriend, who said she witnessed the killing. She told authorities and reporters that a gunman wearing a police uniform fired two bullets in Ilunga’s chest after holding up the radio technician for cash, according to Mukubu.
In an interview with CPJ, Congolese Communications Minister and government spokesman Lambert Mende called the murder a “criminal incident,” confirming that the gunman “was dressed in a policeman’s uniform.”
The presence of uniformed assailants is a thread that runs through a number of journalist murders in this country. Eleven journalists have been murdered since 1992 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to CPJ data. In an interview last year, Congolese government spokesman Mende blamed most of the murders on military criminality. Ironically, the criminality is a topic the government has faulted Radio France Internationale for covering, equating the Paris-based station’s reporting to “demoralizing troops” and banning RFI from national airwaves for nearly 17 months.
On Tuesday, Mende said authorities had launched a manhunt for Ilunga’s killer. Their record does not give rise to optimism. Congolese authorities have fallen short of solving the overwhelming number of journalists’ murders. Even in the case of Serge Maheshe— where there were arrests and not one, but two trials–investigations were flawed by mishandling of evidence and apparent reluctance to explore all possible motives. There were sudden retractions of statements by witnesses, accusations of political pressure, and numerous unanswered questions. The same pattern of miscarriage of justice applied to the cases of Patient Chebeya, Bruno Koko Chirambiza, Didace Namujimbo, Bapuwa Mwamba, and Franck Kangundu.
Meanwhile, no one has ever been arrested or prosecuted for the murders of Laurent Bisset, Pierre Kabeya, Adolphe Missamba Ndengi Kavula, Belmonde Magloir Missinhoun, Patrick Kiluku Wilungula, according to CPJ research.