Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff to President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been placed under provisional arrest as part of an investigation into misappropriated funds for the president’s emergency 100 Days infrastructure improvement program, launched in March 2019. Kamerhe voluntarily turned himself in for questioning on the matter, having rejected the state prosecutor’s initial call a week before. Supporters of Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) have been calling the investigation and its focus on Kamerhe a “campaign of demonization” by members of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and ex-President Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for the Congo (FCC).
It is true that while Kamerhe was running the 100 Days program, US$46 million out of the fixed budget of US$304 million for one road-infrastructure project in Kinshasa had already been spent by mid-February, without any work having been completed. Financial malfeasance appears to have occurred, but Kamerhe’s arrest seems less about graft than it is the expression of long-simmering tensions within the Heading for Change (CACH) ruling coalition, composed of the UNC, UDPS, and FCC. Some of the animosity toward Kamerhe from the FCC stems from his decision to break away from Kabila’s political camp in 2009 to form his own party. Among Kamerhe’s UDPS opponents, they suspect that the former chief of staff is simply using CACH to advance his own political ambitions, including a possible presidential run in 2023.