South Africa has chosen to side with the Democratic Republic of Congo on its investigation into violence in its Kasai province, which has seen hundreds of people killed in the past 10 months and at least 1.3 million displaced.
No mention was made in any public statements of this violence during President Joseph Kabila’s state visit to South Africa over the weekend, but his delegation was asked to explain it in a closed meeting that was chaired by Kabila and President Jacob Zuma.
Kabila’s chief advisor, Barnabé Kikaya-bin-Karubi, who was in the meeting, told News24 the Congolese delegation explained that the DRC government was already investigating the violence and it was opposed to an independent investigation as was suggested by some countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week.
“It is international law. The United Nations cannot override the sovereignty of a country, and when the matter broke out we put together our own investigation,” he said.
“Until that investigation is done, no other body can come to our country and investigate any other internal matter.”
He said the DRC did not object to accepting technical assistance on the investigation. Although the European Union, which has already instituted sanctions against 11 DRC officials over the Kasai violence, lobbied countries, including South Africa, to vote for an independent investigation. Kikaya-bin-Karubi said South Africa and the rest of Africa sided with the DRC.
Eventually it was decided that the investigation be done in conjunction with the DRC government.
The Congolese delegation said the conflict hinged around a young man, Kamwina Nsapu, who came to South Africa to study and then returned home after his father’s death.
He found, however, that his father had made his brother the heir to the thrown, so Nsapu mobilised the youth “and the youth made havoc, killing, maiming people”, Kikaya-bin-Karubi said.
He said the police intervened to calm them down, but Nsapu was killed and “it made matters even worse”.
He claimed the situation was calm now.
A South African official who was in the meeting said the explanation by the DRC government made sense. “Imagine an international investigation into Marikana,” he said, referring to the police shooting in 2012 that killed 34 people and for which there was a judicial commission of enquiry.
The Catholic Church has estimated that more than 3 300 people have died since the outbreak of violence in the Kasai region, which is an opposition stronghold.