Newscongolese soldiers sentenced to death for desertion and theft

congolese soldiers sentenced to death for desertion and theft

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

10:53 AM EDT, July 5, 2024

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

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

After abandoning their positions, they committed theft of 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; 25 sentences relate to the death penalty. One of the soldiers pleaded guilty and may have been acquitted because of this. 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 because the authorities wanted to eliminate "traitors" from the ranks of the army.

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, demobilization 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 marginalizing the Tutsi ethnic minority.

Read more: Pole sentenced to life imprisonment in Congo. Dramatic appeal from the family

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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