Vital Kamerhe, a former top aide to DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi was jailed for 20 years over corruption charges. However, Kamerhe is seriously ill and may need medical treatment abroad.
Kamerhe was sentenced to hard labor 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 was tried and convicted for corruption. Kamerhe was also a key ally of former president Joseph Kabila.
The 61-year-old is being held at Kinshasa’s central penitentiary since April. Deputy Justice Minister Bernard Takahishe told journalists that Kamerhe is seriously ill. The minister further said that Kamerhe now needs appropriate care to improve his condition.
“There may be a need to evacuate him, for medical treatment abroad,” said the minister. “He still needs oxygen.”
Sources say that Kamerhe has been hospitalized since August. They said he is suffering from respiratory problems after contracting corona-virus.
Fall from Grace
Kamerhe has insisted that he was the victim of a political trial. He said his trial was stage-managed to prevent him from running for president in 2023. His appeal trial has been repeatedly postponed.
Kamerhe was a parliament speaker and headed an influential political party before his fall. He was an early contender in the December 2018 elections but instead reached a deal with Tshisekedi. He pulled out of the race and campaigned alongside him. Kamerhe 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. The houses were 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.
Kamerhe had hit the celebrity pages for a society wedding that was widely criticized for its lavishness last year.