DR Congo: Former health minister under house arrest

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo

Former Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga was placed under house arrest over alleged embezzlement of public funds to tackle the Ebola epidemic that has killed nearly 2,000 people.

“The group of lawyers of Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, former Minister of Health of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], inform the national and international public that the latter has been placed under house arrest by order of the Court of Cassation,” his lawyers said late Tuesday.

Ilunga was arrested on Saturday while he was trying to leave the country, according to the police.

He was accused of the alleged embezzlement of $4.3 million allocated for the fight against the Ebola epidemic.

These accusations came few weeks after his resignation from the government on July 22.

He was protesting President Felix Tshisekedi’s decision to appoint a team responsible for the Ebola response that would report directly to the president.

Ilunga had been banned from leaving the country after being heard in a preliminary investigation on Aug. 27.

After the hearing, Ilunga had promised to defend himself “with the utmost energy for his honor”.

Ebola epidemic

The death toll from Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has risen to 1,984 since its outbreak in July 2018, the country’s Health Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said among 3,128 cases of reported hemorrhagic fever, some 3,017 were confirmed to be Ebola cases.

“Nearly 85 people are being treated for the disease, while 948 have recovered from the virus”, the ministry report said.

Ebola — a tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the DRC — can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.

It can also reportedly spread through contact with body fluids, infected persons or of those who have succumbed to the virus.

Ebola caused global alarm in 2014 when the world’s worst outbreak began in West Africa, killing more than 11,300 people and infecting an estimated 28,600 as it swept through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 

*Writing by Felix Nkambeh Tih
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