DRC ex-minister held in Brazzaville over embezzlement case

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Willy Bakonga
Willy Bakonga
  • Willy Bakonga was arrested while attempting to fly to Paris from Brazzaville on Tuesday.
  • Bakonga is wanted in connection with an embezzlement case involving some $31 million.
  • He previously held the post of education minister since August 2019 under President Tshisekedi.

A former DR Congo minister has been arrested in neighbouring Republic of Congo at the request of authorities in Kinshasa who have accused him of embezzlement, a police source said Wednesday.

Willy Bakonga, a former education minister in the DR Congo, was arrested while attempting to fly to Paris from the Congo capital Brazzaville late Tuesday after Kinshasa requested his extradition, the source said.

DRC prosecutors have been seeking Bakonga since Friday in connection with an embezzlement case.

The police source said intelligence services had detained Bakonga, but did not elaborate.

Bakonga had held the post of education minister since August 2019 under President Felix Tshisekedi.

In November, a report by the DRC's Inspector General of Finances revealed "a number of shortcomings and alleged cases of fraud and corruption in connection with the use of public funds in the sector, as well as weaknesses in internal controls," according to the World Bank.

It estimated that some $31 million had been siphoned off.

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Bakonga is a major advocate of private schools in Kinshasa, with establishments enrolling thousands of students from kindergarten through high school.

Free primary education is a flagship policy of Tshisekedi, who has been in power since January 2019.

The programme was estimated to cost $2.6 billion when it was launched - more than one-third of the DRC's annual budget for 2021 - even as other public needs like hospitals and roads are lacking.

But the World Bank said in February it was suspending a first tranche of $100 million in a programme to fund free schools in DR Congo over "fraud and corruption" in the education sector.

Two public education officials in the DRC were sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement late last month.

Kinshasa has previously sought in vain the extradition from Congo of General Munene, an official under Joseph Mobutu, who was in power in the then Zaire from 1965 to 1997.

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