DRC: 25 soldiers sentenced to death for “fleeing before the enemy”

DRC: 25 soldiers sentenced to death for “fleeing before the enemy”

Twenty-five Congolese soldiers accused of “fleeing before the enemy” during recent fighting against M23 rebels were sentenced to death on Wednesday in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, following a one-day trial, one of their lawyers said.

In total, 31 defendants (27 soldiers and 4 civilian women, wives of soldiers) appeared in this trial in “flagrancy” (immediate appearance) before the military garrison court of Butembo (North Kivu) sitting in a mobile court near the front line, in the village of Alimbongo.

They were being prosecuted for “fleeing before the enemy”, “wasting war munitions”, “violating orders” and “theft”, Jules Muvweko, one of the defence lawyers, told AFP.

At the end of the hearing, ” 25 soldiers, including two captains, were sentenced to death,” said Mr Muvweko, announcing the defence’s intention to appeal these convictions.

The other defendants, including the four women, were acquitted due to lack of evidence, he said.

DRC: AFC/M23 seizes Kanya Bayonga, a strategic gateway on the road to Greater North Kivu

Since the end of last week, rebels from the Congo River Alliance-M23 have taken control of several localities on the northern front of the conflict, notably Kanyabayonga.

Located about a hundred kilometers from Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, Kanyabayonga is considered a lock controlling access to the north to the towns of Butembo and Beni, strongholds of the important Nande tribe and major commercial centers of the country.

Since the end of 2021, the M23, a Congolese rebellion with a majority Tutsi population, has conquered large swathes of territory in North Kivu with the support of Rwandan army units, to the point of almost completely surrounding Goma.

The rout of the Congolese army and its auxiliary militias in the face of this rebel advance has aroused suspicions among the authorities of infiltration by the security forces.

DRC: “This advance by the rebels may be a tipping point for the war”

Many military personnel, including senior officers, deputies, senators and business figures in eastern DRC have been arrested and accused of “complicity with the enemy.”

In March, Kinshasa also announced its decision to lift a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty that had been in force for more than 20 years in the DRC. According to the government, this measure, which has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, targets in particular soldiers accused of treason.

At the beginning of May, eight Congolese soldiers, including five officers, were sentenced to death in Goma for “cowardice” and “fleeing before the enemy”.