Raphael Yanyi Ovungu, president of the High Court of Kinshasa in charge of the famous and resounding trial of Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff and main ally of president Félix Tshisekedi, died suddenly of a heart attack during the night of Tuesday to Wednesday 27 May according to the police. “At around 2 am (1 am GMT), he got sick and was taken to the Nganda hospital center. He died from a heart attack, “said a Kinshasa police official, Colonel Miguel Bagaya.
The death of this judge of fifty years occurred a few days before the third hearing of the trial between the Congolese state and the chief of staff of the President of the Republic and two other defendants, tried for the embezzlement of some 50 million dollars of public funds, arouses a wave of indignation and questions as to the follow-up which will be given to this unprecedented judicial saga. In any case, “the trial will continue. There will indeed be a hearing on June 3. There is no debate on it, “assured a judicial source.
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Immediately after the announcement of his death, all the living forces of the nation, citizen movements, civil society and political class of all tendencies, had demanded an autopsy to determine the real causes of the death of judge Yanyi, who had nevertheless presided over forces the second hearing of the trial on Monday, May 25.
That said, at the request of the Kinshasa Gombe public prosecutor’s office, the forensic doctor at the Kinshasa general reference hospital was instructed to autopsy the body of the judge. According to UN radio Okapi, the autopsy report would reveal that judge Yanyi did not die a natural death: “A poison would have been used” and “international expertise would be considered to determine the nature of the possible poison that would have been used. “
For his part, the spokesman for the deceased, Lambert Ombalakonde, told AFP that “no results have come out”. “We have to wait a few more days,” said a magistrate, indicating that this report is not intended for the public.
In the meantime, the family described the information circulating on social networks and even in some media as “speculation”.
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Who would benefit from the death of Judge Yanyi? This is the main question that torments the minds of Internet users on social networks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everyone goes with their interpretation and Vital Kamerhe appears to them as the number one suspect. However, it should be recalled that at the last hearing, the tone was raised between Vital Kamerhe and the attorneys of the Public Prosecutor’s office regarding the appearance at the next hearing of his wife, Hamida Shatur, as a witness. A lawyer for the public prosecutor had even affirmed that “Vital would have promised to set fire if one invites his wife to appear”.
“Now that judge Raphael Yanyi has died tragically, the number one suspect is the one who had promised, urbi et orbi, to the judges to set fire to,” wrote activist Jean-Claude Mindele on his Twitter account, referring to the latest Vital Kamerhe statements, reported by the lawyer of the Republic, Coco Kayudi.
In a press release dated May 30, signed by its secretary general, Aimé Boji, the Union for the Congolese Nation, party of Vital Kamerhe, “firmly condemned a campaign of intoxication of opinion and denied all the unfounded accusations, brought against it and its president, still detained in Makala prison, “he wrote. Before demanding “the involvement of an independent and international forensic pathologist”.
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What impact on the rest of the trial?
The next hearing in the Vital Kamerhe et al trial has been adjourned until June 3. But after the disappearance of judge Raphael Yanyi in charge of the case, Congolese people continue to question the outcome of this trial. According to Me Willy Wenga, the sudden death of the judge is not suspensive of the course of the so-called “100 days” trial underway according to legal texts in the DRC: “The replacement of magistrates during the trial is an option provided for in the legal texts governing the procedure for the investigation of cases in courts and tribunals ”, reacted Me Wenga. This implies, continues this lawyer, that “the appointment of a new interim presiding judge of the court to replace the deceased judge with the consequence of changing the composition”. In conclusion, Willy Wenga mentions that “there will be reopening of the proceedings for a change in composition and the interim will be done by the judge who comes after the deceased judge Yanyi, the latter will thus be responsible for designating a new chamber”.
Pending the arrival of international toxicology experts to identify the nature of the possible poison used and the main sponsors, the Congolese are holding their breath and all eyes are turned to June 3.
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