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UN warns of possible war crimes among Lendu in northeastern Congo3 minutes read

In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group, said a report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO).

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UN Security Council delegation convoy passes in front of a refugee camp near Bunia, east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 12 June 2003. United Nations sent a French leaded force to prevent fightings between Hema and Lendu populations and secure the area. Gianluigi GUERCIA (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

The United Nations has cautioned that the widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, rape and other barbaric acts by some militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in northeastern Congo may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including women and children, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group, said a report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) on Wednesday.

CODECO’s fighters are drawn from the Lendu ethnic group.

Rich in natural resources including gold, diamonds, oil and coltan, the Ituri province in northeast Congo was the site of some of the country’s worst fighting between 1999 and 2007, after a power struggle between rebel groups descended into ethnic violence, mostly between the Hema and Lendu communities.

After years of relative calm, tit-for-tat fighting erupted again in Dec. 2017, reviving longstanding tensions over land.

The recent attacks against civilians not only targeted the Hema and Alur communities, but included communities previously spared, UNJRHO report said. The raids intensified from March this year, particularly around artisanal mining sites.

“The persistence of this violence is likely to push members of the communities targeted by the attacks, who have so far shown restraint, to form self-defence militias,” UNJRHO said.

“This could increase the likelihood of large-scale inter-communal violence in the region,” a Reuters new report stated.

Since June 2018, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, bringing the number of displaced people in Ituri province to more than 1.2 million, UNJRHO said. On March 25 CODECO’s leader Justin Ngudjolo was killed in an army ambush, leading to a power struggle and split within the group.

“There is a high risk that leaders with more radical positions will emerge and plunge the area into a more serious cycle of violence, with even more attacks against (the army) and civilians,” UNJRHO said in the report.

Murder of Chinese businessmen raise tensions in Zambia

Strong tensions have been rekindled in Zambia, over the brutal murder of three Chinese factory bosses in the country, allegedly killed by disgruntled employees over the weekend.

The local press reported the three victims, who were found dead in their burnt out factory, were killed by aggrieved employees of their textile business in Makeni, a suburb of the capital Lusaka.

Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo on Wednesday said investigations had so far led to the arrest of two suspects, reporting also that they had “retrieved the third body of the Chinese national murdered in Makeni.”

“As government we are saddened by the killing and it’s regrettable, it’s barbaric and I am certain that the police will be on top of things,” Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji told AFP. “This is anarchy.”

The killings come after a campaign by Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa, to close Chinese-owned businesses, including barber shops and restaurants, after locals complained about discrimination.

The mayor has also targeted his crusade on a number of other Chinese businesses, lambasting them to use English and stop employing only Chinese nationals, saying “apartheid” ended a long time ago.

His altercations with the Chinese went viral on social media, prompting some government officials to denounce his action but he won accolades from many Zambians.

Sampa on Wednesday apologised to Chinese nationals in Zambia for his actions saying “I accept my error in judgement.”

Zambian rights activist Brebner Changala warned of further repercussions as workers did not feel protected from Chinese employers who “want to behave like they are the owners of the country.”

“The unions and the ministry of labour that are supposed to protect them are not and so they have to fend and defend themselves,” Changala told AFP.

According to a United Nations 2019 world population study, an estimated 80,000 Chinese nationals live in Zambia.

China is the largest foreign investor in the landlocked country, having built airports, roads, schools, factories and police stations, fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment with Zambia now heavily indebted to Beijing.

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East Africa Politics News

Tshisekedi’s ally graft trial resumes after death of judge in DR Congo

A new judge was appointed for the hearing, which took place in the courtyard of the capital’s main jail, where Vital Kamerhe has been held in pre-trial detention since April 8. Kamerhe denied the charges again.

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Vital Kamerhe in an undated photo. Kamerhe, once a pillar of former president Joseph Kabila's rule, and appointed as Tshisekedi’s chief of staff in January 2019.

The graft trial of a prominent DR Congo politician resumed in Kinshasa on Wednesday, a week after the sudden death of the presiding judge. 

Vital Kamerhe, a key ally of President Felix Tshisekedi, appeared in court for the third time with two co-defendants during a hearing that lasted more than seven hours.

Kamerhe, accused of embezzling more than $50 million (46 million euros) in state funds from a project to build social housing, offered his condolences to the family of Judge Raphael Yanyi, who are awaiting the results of a post-mortem.

Police said last week that Yanyi had died suddenly overnight after suffering a heart attack, while pro-democracy campaigners have called for inquiries into the cause of death.

A new judge was appointed for the hearing, which took place in the courtyard of the capital’s main jail, where Kamerhe has been held in pre-trial detention since April 8.

Kamerhe, once a pillar of former president Joseph Kabila’s rule, and appointed as Tshisekedi’s chief of staff in January 2019, once again denied the charges against him.

The defendants are accused of embezzling public funds for a project to build 1,500 pre-fabricated homes for poor people, under a “100-day” action plan launched by Tshisekedi after he took office.

Kamerhe claims that he never entered a private contract with one of his co-accused, Lebanese contractor Jammal Samih.

He said he inherited a contract signed by the former Minister of Rural Development, Justin Bitakwira.

Bitakwira, meanwhile, denied having signed an amendment to a 2018 contract to bring the total cost of the project to $57 million.

Kamerhe also defended his daughter-in-law, a student in France, who was accused of having received a gift in the form of a piece of land donated by the contractor Samih. 

“Neither I nor my daughter, nobody knows about this matter,” he said.

The trial has no precedent in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s recent history.

It takes place in the context of a broader campaign for the “renewal” of the justice system to help root out entrenched corruption.

The biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa, DR Congo has an abundance of natural resources, but two-thirds of its 80 million people live in poverty. 

The country struggles with a long history of conflict, poor governance and graft.

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Rwanda genocide suspect okayed for trial by UN tribunal

Felicien Kabuga attended the Paris court hearing in a wheelchair and barely reacted when the decision was read out Wednesday.

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Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga.

A Paris appeals court ruled Wednesday that Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, arrested in France after evading police in several countries for 25 years, should be handed over to a UN tribunal in Tanzania to stand trial.

Accused of financing the 1994 genocide of some 800,000 people, Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the United Nations court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.

His transfer still faces a final hurdle with defence lawyers planning to appeal the ruling at France’s highest court of appeal.

He attended the hearing in a wheelchair and barely reacted when the decision was read out. 

A lawyer for the 84-year-old Kabuga said he would appeal the decision to hand him over to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which is based in The Hague but has a branch in Arusha, Tanzania.

“I was expecting this, because it’s a highly politicised case,” said one of his lawyers, Laurent Bayon.

“A transfer to Arusha, and the detention conditions there, would not allow him to survive, so a full trial would not be possible, neither for him nor the victims,” he said.

If the appeal is accepted by France’s court of cassation, a decision would be issued within two months. If it endorses his transfer, he would have one month to appear before the international court.

Described as Africa’s most wanted man, Kabuga was arrested on May 16 at his home outside Paris, where he had been living under a false name.

A judge in The Hague ruled last month, however, that Kabuga should be tried in Arusha by the MICT, which took over the duties of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda when it formally closed in 2015.

Kabuga, once one of Rwanda’s richest men, was indicted by the tribunal in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide.

He is accused of forming the notorious Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres, and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis but also moderate Hutus were slaughtered over 100 days of ethnic violence committed by Hutu extremists in 1994.

“These are all lies. Everything I did helped the Tutsis, and my businesses offered them credit — I wasn’t going to go and kill my clients,” he told the court, speaking in Kinyarwanda. An AFP report said.

– Hiding with family’s help -The UN tribunal charged him in 1997 with “genocide” as well as “direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” using his position as chairman of Rwanda’s FDN national defence fund to funnel money to militia groups.

It noted in particular that he arranged for shipments of “an impressive number of machetes and other weapons to the Interahamwe militia”.

He is also accused of directly supervising Interahamwe massacres in Gisenyi, northwestern Rwanda, and in the Kigali district of Kimironko.

Prosecutors say Kabuga’s money and connections helped him avoid arrest for decades after he fled Rwanda for Switzerland in July 1994, though he was ordered to leave the country just one month later.

He later moved to the former Zaire and then Kenya, where he managed to avoid three arrest attempts.

In 2002, the US government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

French officials said new intelligence allowed them to track Kabuga down at an apartment in the Paris suburb of Asnieres-sous-Bois, where he had been hiding out for the past three or four years with the help of his children.

Along with top-ranking military figure Protais Mpiranya, who is still at large, Kabuga was one of the most significant suspects still sought over the genocide.

Another key suspect, former defence minister Augustin Bizimana and until recently believed to have been on the run, died in 2000, the the UN tribunal said last month.

France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.

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South Sudan minister John Jok dies

Late Jok was South Sudan’s minister of East African Affairs in the current unity government.

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John Luk Jok, late minister of East African Affairs and former South Sudanese Minister of Justice. AFP PHOTO / SOLAN GEMECHU (Photo by SOLAN GEMECHU / AFP)

South Sudan’s minister of East African Affairs in the current unity government, John Luk Jok has died, a government spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.

Michael Makuei Lueth, minister of information and broadcasting, described the deceased as a liberator and scholar who helped write the country’s Constitution in 2011.

“It was this Tuesday morning when I received a telephone call and informed that brother John Luk Jok has passed on. So it is true that it has happened,” Makuei told Xinhua in Juba.

He said there was no official confirmation of the cause of the death.

“We have lost a great man who contributed a lot in a liberation struggle and after liberation. He had ever been a servant of people, and with his death, we have lost a great man,” said Makuei.

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