Seven army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to government officials at a press conference on March 18. The charges stem from a massacre of unarmed civilians in Kasaï-Central Province in February that was recorded and widely shared on social media. Congolese military auditor general Joseph Ponde Isambwa said that all seven arrested soldiers were members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC. Ponde said the charges against the officers include "war crime by murder, war crime by mutilation, war crimes by cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of an offense committed by persons subject to military jurisdiction."
Security forces in western Uganda arrested Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere of Rwenzururu Nov. 27 amid claims he was harboring militants seeking independence for the semi-autonomous region. Heavy fighting broke the day before in the regional seat of Kasese, after royal guards attacked a police patrol, leaving 14 officers and some 40 guardsmen and associated militants dead. The king's palace was set afire during the two-hour battle, and a cache of weapons seized. President Yoweri Museveni had phoned the king that morning and ordered him to disband the guards, who are accused of leading a militia seeking an independent "Yiira Republic," straddling the border of Uganda and North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 20 declared unanimously (PDF) that Congolese ex-military leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes for his role in armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo lasted almost eight years, following Bemba's arrest by Belgian authorities in 2008. Bemba was on trial for crimes committed during his time as the commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). He was found guilty of rape, murder and pillage; the verdict condemned the widespread use of sexual violence as a means of war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, welcomed the judgment, stating the ruling "sends an important message across the world that international justice will finally prevail, even in cases where civilians with supervisory, or command, responsibility are accused of crimes committed in a country other than their own."
The trial of Bosco Ntaganda (BBC profile), a former Congolese rebel leader also known as "The Terminator," began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Sept. 2. The rebel leader has pleaded innocent to the 18 charges levied against him, including rape, murder, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual slavery of civilians. He has been accused of killing at least 800 civilians between the years of 2002 and 2003 and keeping girl soldiers as sex slaves. The trial is expected to last for a few months with the anticipation that approximately 80 witness will be called. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
War across large swaths of the Middle East and Africa in the first six months of 2014 forcibly displaced some 5.5 million people, signalling yet another record, the United Nations reported Jan. 7. The UN refugee refugee agency, UNHCR, in its new Mid-Year Trends 2014 Report finds that of the 5.5 million who were newly displaced, 1.4 million fled across international borders, officially becoming refugees. The rest were displaced within their own countries, and are known as internally displaced persons (IDPs). The new data brings the number of people being helped by UNHCR to 46.3 million as of mid-2014—some 3.4 million more than at the end of 2013 and a new record high.
The decades-long civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo shows signs of winding down, but is apparently leaving in its wake a good old "anti-crime" police state that sees impoverished youth as a threat and seeks to exterminate them. Human Rights Watch reported last month that police in the DRC summarily killed at least 51 youth and "forcibly disappeared" 33 others during an anti-crime campaign that began a year ago. "Operation Likofi," which lasted from November 2013 to February 2014, was officially a crackdown on criminal gangs in Congo's capital, Kinshasa. HRW's report, "Operation Likofi: Police Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Kinshasa," details how uniformed police, often wearing masks, dragged suspected gang members—known as kuluna—from their homes at night and executed them. Police shot and killed the unarmed young men and boys outside their homes, in open markets where they slept or worked, or in nearby fields or empty lots. Many others were taken without warrants to unknown locations, never to be seen again.
The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an Islamist insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified. The killings were carried out, in various episodes between Oct. 2 and Dec. 7, using knives, machetes and hoes, in parts of Nord Kivu province, on some occasions in close proximity to positions held by the national army (FARDC) and bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). Just in the 48 hours leading up to the night of Dec. 7, 50 people were killed in two parts of Beni territory, according to Civil Society in North Kivu, a local organization. (See map.)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Dec. 1 upheld the conviction and sentence of former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Lubanga was convicted in March 2012 for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. He received a 14-year prison sentence from the ICC. Lubanga's lawyers were seeking to have the conviction and the sentence replaced with an acquittal. Lubanga has spent the past eight years in prison, all of which count towards the 14-year total. He will serve out the remainder of the sentence in one of the ICC's 122 member states and will be eligible for early release next year.