July 20, 2024

Congo court sentences 25 soldiers to death for “Cowardice”

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Congo court sentences 25 soldiers to death for "Cowardice"

Congo court sentences 25 soldiers to death for "Cowardice"

Twenty-five Congolese soldiers have been sentenced to death for charges including “cowardice” during recent clashes against M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The one-day trial took place at the Butembo garrison military court, located near the frontline in Alimbongo, North Kivu, where a total of 31 defendants, including 27 soldiers and 4 civilian women (wives of soldiers), stood trial under immediate jurisdiction.

The charges ranged from “cowardice in the face of the enemy” to “misuse of war ammunition,” “violation of military orders,” and “theft,” as outlined by defense lawyer Jules Muvweko in statements to AFP.

Following the proceedings, “25 soldiers, including two captains, were sentenced to death,” declared Me Muvweko, announcing the defense’s intent to appeal these verdicts.

The remaining defendants, including the four women, were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Recent weeks have seen escalating tensions as M23 rebels, backed by Rwanda, gained control over strategic locations in the northern front, notably Kanyabayonga.

This town, crucially positioned about 100 kilometers from Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, acts as a gateway controlling northern access to Butembo and Beni, key commercial hubs dominated by the Nande tribe.

Since late 2021, the predominantly Tutsi Congolese rebel group M23 has expanded its territorial grip with support from Rwandan military units, encircling Goma and prompting severe setbacks for the Congolese armed forces and allied militias.

These developments have heightened suspicions of security force infiltration among authorities, resulting in the arrest and accusations of complicity with the enemy against numerous military personnel, high-ranking officers, parliamentarians, senators, and economic figures in eastern DRC.

In March, Kinshasa lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, which had been in effect for over two decades, citing the need to enforce harsher penalties for alleged treason among military ranks.

This move, condemned by human rights organizations, particularly targets those accused of betraying national interests.

Earlier in May, eight Congolese soldiers, including five officers, were similarly sentenced to death in Goma for acts of “cowardice” and “retreat in the face of the enemy.”

The legal proceedings reflect ongoing efforts by the DRC government to maintain military discipline and combat internal and external threats, amidst a backdrop of regional instability and armed conflict.

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