American UN Worker Who Sought To Bring Peace To Congo Found Dead

American UN Worker Who Sought To Bring Peace To Congo Found Dead

American Michael Sharp of Kansas, a United Nations investigator working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been found dead along with a Swedish U.N. investigator, the U.N. confirmed Tuesday.

Sharp and Zaida Catalan had disappeared two weeks ago. Both were part of a U.N. Group of Experts investigating violence and human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups. Their Congolese interpreter and drivers have also gone missing.

The bodies were found Monday, with their identities confirmed by dental records.

Sharp’s parents said their son knew he was in danger, but believed the work he was doing was worth the risk.

“We have heard from colleagues that he was respected by militia group leaders and militia members in ways we had no idea about,” his father, John, told station KAKE. “Somewhere, from his growing up, from family, from church, he caught a vision for peacemaking, conflict resolution without violence.”

His mother recalled the warning he once gave her.

“He sat down with me and said, ‘Mom, you know I don’t have a death wish. But I want you to know also that I’m not afraid to die,’” his mother, Michel said. “But he said, ‘You know I’ll be careful.’”

Sharp’s parents supported him in his efforts.

“We believed from what we’d heard that he had a gift that was needed out there. So we were not going to discourage him,” Sharp’s mother said.

Former U.S. ambassador to the Congo Jim Swan sent a message of sympathy to Sharp’s parents that spoke of how unique their son truly was.

“After all the predatory foreigners who have passed through the Congo over the past few centuries, Michael was someone who genuinely cared, who wanted to understand and learn, and who sought to reach those most difficult to access — not only physically, but psychologically. It’s really sad and — for what it’s worth, unfair — that he was the one taken.”

John Sharp told NBC News that an “unidentified militia group” was responsible for his son’s kidnapping.

“Michael was working on the front lines of what we try to do at the United Nations every day: find problems and fix them,” U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement. “He selflessly put himself in harm’s way to try to make a difference in the lives of the Congolese people.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said there would be an inquiry into their deaths and asked the Congolese authorities to “conduct a full investigation into this incident.”

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