Two U.N. experts found dead after going missing in violent region of Congo
Two U.N. experts who disappeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this month were found dead this week, reportedly buried in shallow graves near the Moyo River.
The bodies of Michael Sharp, an American citizen, and Zaida Catalan, a Swedish national, were found by U.N. peacekeepers outside the city of Kananga in the central province of Kasai in the DRC, the United Nations confirmed in a statement Tuesday.
Sharp and Catalan reportedly disappeared, along with their translator and three drivers, on March 12 while investigating human rights issues and local militia groups in the Congo. A day later, the Congolese government stated that the group had “fallen into the hands of unidentified negative forces” but failed to specify who these forces were, according to Human Rights Watch.
“It’s really odd that some people think that violence is the answer to the problem; it’s illogical,” Sharp’s father, John Sharp, told NBC News in an interview when his son first went missing.
The Kasai region where the bodies were found has been subject to widespread violence since August 2016, according to the U.N. Clashes between local militias and the Congolese security forces have resulted in 400 deaths and the displacement of 200,000 people, per estimates from the U.N., which also notes increased recruitment of child soldiers. Discoveries of mass graves have become common.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. will lead its own inquiry into the deaths and “do everything possible to ensure that justice is done.” Guterres also urged the Congolese government to conduct their own full investigation and to continue searching for the four other Congolese who also went missing.