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World

Bodies Of U.N. Employees Found In Democratic Republic Of The Congo

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Earlier this month, two U.N. investigators went missing in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. And now the U.N. confirms their bodies have been found. Human rights groups are demanding answers as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan were traveling in the Kasai region to report for the U.N. on a recent uptick in violence and human rights abuses. Holly Dranginis of the activist group called the Enough Project says the U.N. investigators play a critical role.

HOLLY DRANGINIS: Both of them did very brave, difficult work in dangerous situations. And it was all in order to expose human rights violations and put pressure on authorities who might be able to do something about it.

KELEMEN: Dranginis, who's a friend of Sharp's, is calling for an independent investigation. She says Sharp, who's in his 30s, knew the country well. He was working on a peace and reconciliation program for the Congolese Protestant Council of Churches when NPR's Gregory Warner came across him two years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: I met Michael Sharp on a commuter boat crossing Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, not far from the lake were rebel-held forests where, every few weeks, Sharp would walk, unarmed, to the base of a particularly fearsome rebel group called the FDLR. And there he would sit in the shade of banana trees to drink tea, practice his Swahili and listen to these rebels' stories.

MICHAEL SHARP: You can always listen. You can always listen to people who want a chance to talk about how they see the world.

KELEMEN: Sharp told NPR at the time about the group's effort to persuade hundreds of rebels to lay down their arms.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SHARP: We try to build relationships and just interact. The more we interact, the more they trust us to turn themselves in to us.

KELEMEN: This week, Sharp's father wrote on his Facebook page that he was informed that two Caucasian bodies, a male and a female, were found in shallow graves in the area where authorities were looking for his son. It was a message, he says, he had never hoped to write.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF JIM GUTHRIE AND J.J. IPSEN'S "AND SO WE SEE THE TRUTH AND THE BEAUTY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.