Congolese warlord surrenders but will justice prevail?

2016-10-15 13:00

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Cape Town – A rights group has expressed concern over whether justice will prevail after warlord Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga surrendered in southern Democratic Republic of Congo this week, with at least 100 of his fighters.

According to reports, Mutanga and his fighters turned themselves in to authorities in Malambwe, a locality about 70km from Lubumbashi.

An official said the surrender was a result of long negotiations to put an end to insecurity in the Katanga area.

Mutanga and his fighters were set to enter into the government’s demobilisation and rehabilitation programme.

Following the surrender, the Human Rights Group (HRW), said in a statement that Mutanga and the fighters should have been arrested for justice to take its course.

"Instead of arresting him, local officials in the provincial capital of Lubumbashi gave Gédéon a celebratory welcome," said Senior Researcher Ida Sawyer said. 

Justice for victims 

According to HRW, Mutanga surrendered once before, in 2006 with about 150 fighters, most of whom were child soldiers. The government tried him for crimes against humanity in a landmark case for Congolese justice. In March 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

But Mutanga managed to escape from prison in 2011. He went on to lead an armed group that has carried out serious abuses in central Katanga for the past five years.

It remained unclear what led to his latest surrender, but it came against a backdrop of heightened

political tensions surrounding President Joseph Kabila’s future.

In the past, the Congolese government has given amnesties to former warlords and "rewarded" them with senior positions in the Congolese army, effectively perpetuating the cycle of impunity and abuse, HRW said.

"It should not resort to old practices this time. Authorities should ensure that Mutanga is returned to prison, ideally in a high-security prison outside of Katanga to minimise the risk of escape. They should also open judicial proceedings into the alleged crimes committed since Mutanga’s escape in 2011," Sawyer. 

She added: "Doing so will make the surrender of one of DRC’s  most brutal warlords an opportunity for accountability and a measure of justice for victims – and not just the recipe for more atrocities." 

Read more on:    drc  |  central africa  |  war crimes

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