NewsSoldiers sentenced to death for desertion amid Congo rebel clashes

Soldiers sentenced to death for desertion amid Congo rebel clashes

Soldiers from Congo sentenced to death
Soldiers from Congo sentenced to death
Images source: © Getty Images | Warwick Lister-Kaye
Mateusz Kaluga

5 July 2024 09:21

As many as 25 soldiers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been sentenced to death. The military tribunal found that they had all abandoned their positions and refused to fight the rebels. They were also accused of theft. Western media point to the worsening situation in this African country.

The Congolese army has been fighting the "M23" rebels again for the past two years, with support from neighbouring Rwanda. The BBC website, citing an army spokesman, reports that a military tribunal sentenced the soldiers for desertion. They abandoned their positions in the villages of Keseghe and Matembe.

After abandoning their positions, they stole goods from shops in the nearby village of Alimbongo. They were detained with their wives, to whom they entrusted the loot. However, the women avoided punishment.

One of the soldiers received a 10-year prison sentence, while the 25 other sentences relate to the death penalty. One of the soldiers pleaded guilty and may have been acquitted. The lawyer for the death row inmates has announced an appeal.

It is worth noting that in May, a military court already sentenced eight soldiers for desertion during battles with the rebels. They also hope for a change of verdict and are appealing it. The Congolese government lifted a 20-year moratorium on the death penalty. The authorities wanted to eliminate "traitors" from the army ranks.

War breaks out again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

It is worth noting that the rebels formed the "M23" group back in 2012. It consists of those who deserted from the national army. The fighting lasted nearly two years but was halted with the help of the UN. A ceasefire, demobilisation of the rebels, amnesty, and political rights for the fighters were agreed upon.

However, peace did not last long. In 2021, the rebels decided to fight again on DR Congo territory, accusing the government of breaching the agreement and marginalising the Tutsi ethnic minority.

The national army is seen as unprofessional and poorly disciplined. Soldiers complain about low pay and a lack of equipment. The rebels are perceived quite differently.

According to the BBC, in recent days, over 150,000 civilians have fled their homes, worsening the humanitarian crisis in a region where 2.8 million people have already been displaced.

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