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Scene from the trial in Goma
Image: Jonas Gerding

Congo: Ex-warlord sentenced to life in prison

November 23, 2020

A former Congolese militia leader, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes including mass rape and recruitment of child soldiers. The UN has said the verdict gave "immense hope" to victims.


A military court in Congo on Monday sentenced ex-warlord Ntabo Nataberi Sheka to life imprisonment for war crimes including murder, mass rape, sexual slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers.

The crimes were committed in Congo's eastern province of North Kivu between 2010 and 2014. Among other things, Sheka and another militia commander, Seraphin Zitonda, who also received a life sentence, were found guilty of organizing raids in Walikale territory in mid-2010 during which 380 people, including children, were raped, and 287 killed.

Sheka's Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) militia, which he claims was formed to fight Rwandan Hutu rebels from the FDLR, was also accused of having recruited at least 154 children as fighters. His soldiers were blamed for destroying almost 1,000 homes and businesses.

Read more: Congo: Ituri governor appeals for help to stop 'ongoing genocide'

'Impunity is not inevitable'

The ex-warlord had managed to avoid arrest for for six years before turning himself in to UN peacekeepers in 2017. The subsequent trial in the eastern city of Goma lasted two years.

"This verdict is a source of immense hope for the many victims of the conflicts in the DRC: Their suffering has been heard and recognized, and impunity is not inevitable," said Leila Zerrougui, the head of the UN peacekeeping in Congo.

Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Sheka's conviction was "an important step in the fight against impunity and a testament to all those who took personal risks in the pursuit of justice."

Dozens of armed groups are still operating in eastern Congo decades after the end of a 1998-2003 war that claimed millions of lives.

tj/rs (Reuters, AFP)