DR Congo soldiers on trial for selling arms to militia groups
Tuesday April 26 2022
Sixteen people, including nine soldiers, went on trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday accused of selling weapons to a militia group in the country's restive northeast.
Army weapons are suspected of having fallen into the hands of a notorious group called CODECO, blamed for ethnic massacres in the northeastern province of Ituri.
The arms were allegedly used in attacks on villages and displaced people's camps.
In one raid, over 60 people at Plaine Savo in Djubu territory were massacred on February 1, military prosecutor Joseph Makelele told the court.
The first day of proceedings at a military court in Ituri identified the defendants and arms that had been seized, namely an AK47 assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
The nine military personnel being prosecuted include a lieutenant colonel and three majors.
The civilian co-defendants include four women, one of whom was arrested last month in possession of ammunition which she is said to have been taking to the CODECO militia in the Kobu region.
As well as the illegal sale of arms, the defendants are charged with war crimes, participation in an insurrectional movement and associating with criminals.
CODECO -- the name for the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo -- is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-standing feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before intervention by a European peacekeeping force.
Violence then resumed in 2017, blamed on the emergence of CODECO.
Its attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.
Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province have been under a "state of siege" since May last year. The army and police have replaced senior administrators in a bid to stem attacks by armed groups