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DR Congo ex-presidential aide jailed for graft 'seriously ill'

By AFP | November 25th 2020 at 08:48:29 GMT +0300

Vital Kamerhe [AFP]

A top former aide to DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi jailed for 20 years for corruption in a landmark trial is seriously ill and may need medical treatment abroad, a minister said Tuesday.

Vital Kamerhe, who was also a key ally of influential former president Joseph Kabila, was sentenced to hard labour in June for diverting more than $50 million (44 million euros) of public funds.

The case marked the first time that a figure considered untouchable in Congolese political life has been tried and convicted for corruption.

Held at Kinshasa's central penitentiary since April, the 61-year-old is "seriously ill" and now needs "appropriate care to improve his condition. Otherwise, it could be a disaster," Deputy Justice Minister Bernard Takahishe told journalists.

"There may be a need to evacuate him," for medical treatment abroad, he added.

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A relative told AFP that Kamerhe has been hospitalised since August and is suffering from respiratory problems after contracting coronavirus.

"He still needs oxygen," the source said, calling for the government to organise a medical evacuation to France or Belgium, where doctors have been monitoring his condition long distance.

Kamerhe has insisted that he was the victim of a "political trial" to prevent him from running for president in 2023.

His appeal trial has been repeatedly postponed.

Before his dramatic fall from grace, Kamerhe was parliament speaker and headed an influential political party.

Last year, he hit the celebrity pages for a society wedding that was widely criticised for its lavishness.

He had been an early contender in the December 2018 elections but instead reached a deal with Tshisekedi under which he pulled out and campaigned alongside him.

He was then appointed chief of staff when Tshisekedi was named president.

Much of the money Kamerhe was convicted of embezzling was earmarked for building 1,500 social housing units under a programme announced by Tshisekedi after his inauguration in January 2019.

Kamerhe's trial became the emblem of the president's proclaimed crackdown on DR Congo's endemic corruption.

DR Congo Graft Felix Tshisekedi Vital Kamerhe
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