Thu, Mar 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Bodies of two UN experts found

AP, BENI, Democratic Republic of the Congo

The bodies of an American and a Swedish investigator with the UN and their Congolese interpreter were found in Central Kasai, authorities said on Tuesday, more than two weeks after they disappeared while looking into violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) province.

“After tests ... it is possible to identify the bodies as the two UN experts and their interpreter as being found near the Moyo River,” DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

Investigations will continue to seek other missing Congolese colleagues, he said.

Michael Sharp of the US and Zaida Catalan of Sweden, along with interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi and two motorbike drivers, went missing on March 12 while looking into large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the DR Congo Army and local militia groups.

DR Congo Police Inspector General Charles Bisengimana said that the bodies were found on Monday between the cities of Tshimbulu and Kananga, the provincial capital.

The confirmation came a day after Sharp’s father, John Sharp of Hesston, Kansas, wrote on Facebook that the bodies of two Caucasians had been found in shallow graves in the search area, saying there was a high probability the dead were his son and his son’s colleague.

“All other words fail me,” he wrote.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the world body would conduct an inquiry into what happened to the two experts.

Guterres said the cause of their deaths had not been determined.

“Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC [DR Congo] in order to help bring peace to the country and its people,” Guterres said in a statement, sending his condolences to their families.

Sharp and Catalan’s disappearance is the first time that UN experts have been reported missing in DR Congo, Human Rights Watch said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces.

Parts of DR Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for decades, but violence in the Kasai provinces represents a new expansion of tensions.

The Kamwina Nsapu militia has been fighting security forces since last year, with the violence increasing after government troops killed the militia’s leader in August.

More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, the UN said.

When asked earlier on Tuesday whether the investigators’ disappearance could be a turning point in the UN sending experts to the region, Guterres’ deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said: “We hope that we could continue to send experts to do their necessary monitoring activities wherever they need to go. Of course, that needs to be undertaken with full respect and understanding of the security condition on the ground.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top