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Credit: EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP/Getty Images

Marcel Lubala

The murderers came in the middle of the night and showed no mercy. The night-time curfew, which had again been extended by an hour shortly before, did nothing to deter their crime, nor the fact that it happened in front of witnesses. It was still dark on that early Tuesday morning in Mbuji Mayi when Marcel Lubala died. It was 15 November 2016.

It is still unsafe on the streets of Mbuji Mayi, the city of two million people in Kasai province in the interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly at night. The country finds itself in one of its worst crises for decades, and November 2016 saw the start of a particularly unstable phase. The term of President Joseph Kabila ended that week, but he had announced that he wanted to remain in office even after elections, which were to be delayed until 2018.

The country finds itself in one of its worst crises for decades.

UN forces have been stationed in the country for years with the aim of ensuring a minimum of stability, but they do so in vain. Although the country is rich in raw materials, there is extreme poverty – as a consequence of decades of corruption and unrest.

Thousands of people have been killed in recent months in battles in the southern province of Kasai. The curfew now is now in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but the men who broke into Marcel Lubala’s house that night obviously had nothing to fear. They wore military uniforms, so witnesses said later.

Whether Marcel Lubala’s murder had something to do with this political vacuum remains unclear. For 15 years, the 59-year-old had worked for the state-run radio and television broadcaster RTNC (Radio télévision nationale congolaise), where he produced programmes on environmental and health topics.

One thing is clear: the journalist was not an accidental victim. The murderers deliberately broke into his house, breaking down the door and tying up his wife. His children had to watch it all unfold. Lubala himself managed to break away from the scuffle, but before he could reach safety on the neighbouring plot, three shots struck him. One of them hit him in the neck. Afterwards, they lugged the body into the house and left a note: “Finally we have him.”

Marcel Lubala is the fourteenth journalist in ten years to die a violent death in the Republic of Congo. Journalists are frequently subject to attacks, intimidation and even open threats, reports the organisation Reporters Without Borders. Time and again, reporters are arrested by the secret service and held for weeks or months without a court verdict.

One thing is clear: the journalist was not an accidental victim.

On the day of his murder, Marcel Lubala had been in the office of news service ANR (Agence nationale de renseignement). Whether he went of his own accord or was summoned there is unclear. The reports compiled following his murder gave the cause of the visit as “a family matter”.

According to Reporters Without Borders, murders of journalists often go unpunished.

After Lubala’s death, several men were apparently arrested, but it remains unclear whether they have appeared in court. The independent organisation “Journaliste en danger” (JED) believes there is no doubt that Lubala was the victim of a targeted revenge attack, and after the attack called for a commission to be appointed to investigate the murder. Two days later Lubala’s colleagues abandoned their work, calling for a “no-press day” and a protest rally demanding an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Even today, they still haven’t had one.


written by Christine Dankbar; Berliner Zeitung

  • Marcel Lubala

    The 59-year-old Marcel Lubala worked for the state radio and TV station RTNC in Mbuji Mayi, the third largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lubala was killed brutally in front of his wife and children. Civil rights activists condemn this crime fiercely as it happened during the curfew – a time where security personnel should keep the streets safe. The murder was never fully solved.