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Leading suspect in journalist's murder escapes from military cell in Bukavu

(JED/RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger are appalled to learn that one of the main suspects in the November 2008 murder of Radio Okapi journalist Didace Namujimbo, Corp. Sébastien Tandema, escaped from a cell in the 10th Military Region's headquarters in the eastern city of Bukavu on 23 November 2009, just five days after he was arrested.

When he appeared before military prosecutors a few days after his arrest, Corp. Tandema, a deserter from the Congolese armed forces' 3rd Joint Brigade, reportedly confessed to fatally shooting Namujimbo.

"One could joke about the escape if this were not such a serious matter," Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger said. "There is no longer any doubt that the suspects are benefiting from complicity within the military justice system, which clearly does not want to have to try those responsible for this despicable crime."

Namujimbo's brother Déo, the Reporters Without Borders correspondent in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: "The authorities had been looking for this man for exactly one year and when they finally arrested him, he managed to escape within a few days. I cannot believe my ears and eyes. How do you expect me to still believe that my brother's murders will ever be tried?"

Interviewed by Radio Okapi last week on the first anniversary of Namujimbo's murder, communication minister and government spokesman Lambert Mendé Omalanga insisted that the investigation was being conducted properly and that justice would take its course.

"The minister's position has been completely blown apart by this escape," Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger added.

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