DRC: MILITIA LEADER GETS DEATH PENALTY FOR WAR CRIMES
March 5, 2009: a former Congolese militia leader was sentenced to death by a military court in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo for war crimes and other offences, a judicial source said.
Kyungu Mutanga, alias "Commander Gedeon", headed a so-called Mai-Mai militia group blamed for numerous attacks on civilians in parts of Katanga province between 2003 and 2006, when the country was wracked by civil war.
He surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers in May 2006 at Mitwaba and was transferred to Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga, pending trial.
The court at Kipushi, 30 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Lubumbashi, handed down the death penalty for war crimes, crimes against humanity, insurrection and terrorism, the source said.
His wife was sentenced to seven years in prison and another defendant to ten years, but five others were acquitted for lack of proof.
However the court also ordered the Congolese state to pay 17 million dollars (13 million euros) to 75 families of Mutanga's victims because of its alleged support for his group up to 2003.
Lawyers for both Mutanga and the state appealed against the judgements, which came after 64 sessions of the court since the trial began in August 2007.
Mai-Mai militia were armed and equipped by Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of current Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, in his rebellion against dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was toppled in 1997.
They were also used against rebel troops backed by Rwanda in the 1998-2003 war.
However at the end of the war some militia leaders refused to hand back their arms, saying they had not been properly compensated for their support for the government.
The Congolese military has always denied having any links with Mutanga's group or with the Mai-Mai still active in the western Kivu region. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 06/03/2009)