Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila called for army commanders involved in a mutiny of about 300 soldiers last week in the country’s east to face military justice, an army spokesman said.
Kabila has spent the last two days meeting with the army’s top commanders and with members of civil society in Goma, capital of eastern North Kivu province, army spokesman Lt. Colonel Sylvain Ekenge said.
At least 16 deserters were killed in fighting after leaving their posts in North and South Kivu provinces last week, Ekenge said by phone from Goma today. About 15 soldiers have been arrested across the border in Uganda, and “more than 90 percent” of the mutinous soldiers have returned to their bases, he said.
Congo’s east, which is Africa’s richest tin-producing region and has large deposits of gold, has been mired in conflict for more than fifteen years.
The deserters were a mix of former rebels, including some loyal to Bosco Ntaganda, an ex rebel leader who is now a general in Congo’s army wanted for war crimes by The Hague-based International Criminal Court.
Kabila has declined to arrest Ntaganda, who has links to neighboring Rwanda, since he was integrated into the army in 2009.
The president told local civilian leaders today that any commanders guilty of criminal acts should be arrested and face justice, Thomas D’Aquin Muiti, head of the North Kivu Provincial Coordination for Civil Society in Goma, said after meeting with Kabila.
“We think the moment has come,” Muiti said by phone. “The President did not mince words. All people who are responsible for criminal acts should face justice and if Bosco Ntaganda is guilty of criminal acts in principle he should face justice.”
Calls to Ntaganda’s mobile phone did not connect.
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