Former vice president of the Congolese National Assembly and presidential candidate, Jean-Marc Kabund, has been sentenced to seven years in jail by the Court of Cassation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The verdict, announced on yesterday, came in response to 12 charges, including spreading false rumors and insulting the head of state, President Felix Tshisekedi.
Kabund, who was once a close associate of President Tshisekedi, fell out with him last year and subsequently launched his own political party, the “Alliance for Change.”
He has been behind bars at Kinshasa’s main prison since his arrest in August 2022, following his controversial remarks about Tshisekedi and his government.
Kadi Diko, Kabund’s lawyer, revealed the specifics of the sentencing, stating that, “The court sentenced him to four months each for the first nine offenses and 16 months each for the last three.” The most severe charges included “spreading false rumors” and “contempt for the head of state and parliament.”
“This is an extremely harsh decision, especially as there is no appeal,” Diko added, highlighting the finality of the judgment.
While Kabund was not present for the verdict, in a hearing last month, he defended himself and reiterated his remarks, saying, “I have asked the people to do everything in their power to ensure that Mr. Tshisekedi is excluded from the next elections because I believe that the country is in great danger under his leadership.”
The timing of this sentencing couldn’t be more significant, as Congo is gearing up for a general election scheduled for December 20, with President Tshisekedi expected to seek a second term.
The political climate in the country has been fraught with tension and violence in the lead-up to the vote.
In a grim reminder of the volatile situation, an opposition spokesman was fatally shot in the capital city of Kinshasa in July, and opposition parties have staged violent demonstrations, decrying irregularities in the voter registration process.
The Court of Cassation, One of highest courts in Congo, has handed down this sentence without the possibility of appeal, leaving Kabund and his supporters with limited recourse.
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Kabund had previously declared his intention to run for president at the helm of his “Alliance for Change” party, further intensifying the political landscape.
In response to this development, Tina Salama, spokesperson for President Tshisekedi, stated, “The presidency is in no way concerned by court decisions. It is neither a plaintiff nor a civil party in this case and therefore cannot comment on it.”