UN monitors murdered in Congo

UNITED NATIONS – Two United Nations sanctions monitors in Democratic Republic of Congo discussed their travel plans with family representatives of a late militia leader the day before they were murdered while investigating the group, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

However, UN investigators say they cannot yet lay blame for the murders based on the preliminary evidence.

American Michael Sharp, co-ordinator of the independent monitoring group, and Swede Zaida Catalan were killed in central Congo on March 12 while carrying out investigations for the annual report to the UN Security Council, dated June 30.

The remaining members of the monitoring group wrote that they had retrieved an audio tape, dated March 11, of Mr Sharp and Ms Catalan speaking with representatives of the family of the late Kamuina Nsapu militia leader Jean-Pierre Mpandi, who they said was killed by Congolese troops last August.

This was the first time the existence of this tape had been reported.

“Parts of the discussion concerned a field visit scheduled for the following day,” they wrote in the 35-page report.

“The tape confirmed that the investigation aimed at a better understanding of Kamuina Nsapu’s structure, its support networks and the potential recruitment and use of children.”

On March 12, Mr Sharp and Ms Catalan left the provincial capital of Kananga to travel towards Bunkonde. At about 4pm they “were executed by a heteroclite group of individuals not yet identified,” wrote the monitors, who said they did not yet have the enough evidence to lay blame for the killings.

“However, the available evidence does not preclude the involvement of different actors, such as (pro or anti-government) Kamuina Nsapu factions, other armed groups, as well as members of state security services,” said the report.

Their bodies were found in a shallow grave two weeks after they disappeared.

More than 3,300 people have been killed and 1.4 million forced to flee their homes in Kasai since the start of the insurrection nearly a year ago by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which wanted the withdrawal of military forces from the area.

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