The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government has dispatched former warlords, including two who were tried for war crimes in The Hague, to try to convince militiamen in their home region to surrender, the governor of Ituri province announced just yesterday.
Ethnic violence in Ituri, where a conflict between Lendu farmers and Hema herders started between 1999 and ended in 2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths, but broke out again in 2017. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee.
Now, Congo’s government is trying to put a decisive end to the conflict by turning to some of the main players from the previous conflict, dispatching a delegation that arrived in Ituri last week.
Germain Katanga, a Congolese national, sits in the courtroom of the ICC during the closing statements in the trial against Katanga and Ngudjolo Chui in The Hague. Image credit REUTERS, Michael Kooren/File Photo
Governor Jean Bamanisa declared that one of the members of the delegation is Germain Katanga. The International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Katanga in 2014 on one count of crimes against humanity and four of war crimes for leading a Lendu militia in a 2003 attack on a village that killed about 200 civilians.
Afterwards, he was released this year after serving over a decade in prison in The Hague and Congo.
Moreover, another delegation member is Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was acquitted by the ICC in 2012 of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the same attack.
Fleeing the escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Ituri Province, the lines were mostly made up of women and children. Image courtesy: Oliver W Jarvis
The delegation will start travelling and assessing the situation around the province later this week to meet members of the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, whose fighters are mostly drawn from the Lendu community.
“It could take more than 45 days to travel everywhere,” he explained. “It is a mystical-religious community group, and not structured.”
Last year Congo’s army launched a large-scale operation against militias in the east of the country, which unfortunately sparked a backlash in which armed groups killed several hundreds of people.