MP Edouard Mwangachuchu has been convicted of treason and involvement in militia insurrection
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced Edouard Mwangachuchu, a member of the country’s parliament, to death, with charges against him including treason and involvement with the M23 rebel movement.
General Robert Kalala, the presiding judge, announced the verdict on Friday, saying Mwangachuchu, who was not present at the sentencing, was found guilty of “illegal possession of weapons and munitions of war,” according to AFP.
While the death penalty is often handed down in the DRC, it has not been applied in 20 years and is usually commuted to life in prison.
Mwangachuchu, 70, who represents the Masisi constituency in North Kivu province in the National Assembly, was arrested in early March and has been detained since.
In August, the prosecution sought life imprisonment for the defendant, who also owns a mining company with links to Rwanda. The state accused him of “participation in the M23 insurrectionary movement” in North Kivu, where the Tutsi-led rebels occasionally clash with rival militias.
Mwangachuchu’s defense had argued that his sentence revolved around his Tutsi ethnic group membership. On Friday, defense lawyer Thomas Gamakolo announced his intention to appeal the ruling, claiming that the trial was marred by “ethnic hatred and deductions.”
“It is very difficult today in our country to live or exist as a Tutsi,” AFP quoted Gamakolo as saying.
The legal proceedings against Mr. Mwangachuchu were initiated following the expulsion of M23 rebels from the mining town of Rubaya in North Kivu by residents who had formed a self-defense group, according to the court.
Authorities claimed to have discovered a cache of weapons at the Bibatama site of Mwangachuchu’s Bisunzu Mining Company (SMB). During the proceedings, the court also stated that the minerals produced by SMB were “sent to Rwanda, the country that attacked the DRC.” A document found in the suspect’s safe also indicated that he owned “real estate in Rwanda” and was “very concerned about the development of Rwanda.”
Tensions between Congo and Rwanda have deteriorated following the resurgence of the M23 militia in eastern DRC. Kinshasa accuses Kigali of backing the group, which Rwandan authorities have consistently denied. In August, a group of UN experts claimed to have evidence of Rwandan troops supplying weapons to the M23 rebels and participating in joint attacks on DRC military forces.
According to the UN, the ongoing violence has displaced over 800,000 people in a country where over 6 million civilians are internally displaced.
October 09, 2023 at 06:14PM