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Congo Police Chief Suspended Over Death of Activist

Congolese head of the Voix des Sans-Voix (Voice of the Voiceless) (VSV) party Floribert Chebeya (2005 file photo)

The Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended its top police officer as part of the probe into the death of a human rights activist.

Interior Ministry officials say national police chief John Numbi was suspended late Saturday to allow for a smooth inquiry into the death of Floribert Chebeya.

Chebeya's body was found in a car Wednesday on the outskirts of Congo's capital, Kinshasa.

French news reports say a police colonel, Daniel Mukalay, implicated Numbi in Chebeya's death. The rights activist was believed to be on his way to a meeting with Numbi last Tuesday before disappearing.

The news reports say Mukalay has been arrested and confessed to helping murder Chebeya.

The DRC government has promised a thorough investigation. But a U.N. human rights official, Philip Alston, said Friday that he does not think the investigation will be meaningful. Alston said it is "very likely" the government was involved in Chebeya's death.

On Saturday, more than 50 human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for an independent probe.

Chebeya led one of the most prominent human rights organizations in Congo, Voice of the Voiceless.

He had been arrested by Congolese authorities numerous times over the past two decades, and expressed fear that he was being watched by security forces.

The U.S. government said Friday that it is deeply concerned about what it called Chebeya's apparent assassination.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.