Democratic Republic of Congo’s most notorious warlord was handed down a life sentence by a court on Tuesday for crimes against humanity including murder and sexual violence, lawyers in the case said.
The judges convicted Raia Mutomboki chief Frédéric Masudi Alimasi, who goes by the name Kokodikoko, along with two allies for murder, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and enslavement committed over several months last year.
United Nations investigators say his forces were responsible for the abduction and repeated gang rape of at least 17 women in a cave in September 2018. He was captured by Congo’s army in April 2019.
“The victims we supported during this trial are happy that the crimes they suffered were recognised by the conviction of their tormentors,” Charles Chubaka Chichura, the victims’ chief lawyer, told Reuters.
The court, in the eastern city of Bukavu, also found Congo’s government liable for failing to protect victims of the Raia Mutomboki militia and ordered it to pay compensation to more than 300 victims.
Despite repeated initiatives by the government to address sexual violence in eastern Congo’s conflict zones, where civil wars around the turn of the century resulted in millions of deaths, experts say rape is still deployed by armed groups and army soldiers as a weapon of war.
The court ordered that the state pay the victims compensation as well as medical fees. TRIAL International, a Geneva-based non-governmental organisation that observed the proceedings, praised the verdict but questioned whether compensation would ultimately be paid.
“Precedents have shown that the state was unwilling to compensate victims, even when the judges have ordered it,” said Chiara Gabriele, a legal adviser for the group.
Raia Mutomboki, which means “angry citizens” in Swahili, was formed in 2005 to fight Rwandan Hutu militias in eastern Congo and is one of the most powerful of the dozens of armed groups in mineral-rich areas bordering Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)