A court in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo found seven soldiers guilty of murder and cowardice in the face of the enemy. The soldiers were all given the death penalty.
The soldiers were discovered to have escaped from the battlefield in the face of approaching M23 rebels. They retreated through the Sake village, where they killed two people by carelessly firing their weapons. However, in the DR Congo, death sentences are changed to life in prison.
The soldiers, through their lawyers, have forcefully rejected the idea that by running away they showed cowardice. However, there is enough evidence to show that the soldiers committed murder by killing defenseless civilians. Many soldiers are running away from the M23 rebels, and it's unfortunate that these three soldiers were caught. The lawyers for the three soldiers plan to appeal.
The DR Congo Conflict
Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes as a result of fighting in the mineral-rich North Kivu region, despite the Pope's ardent pleas for peace during his visit to the nation last week.
At a mass in the nation's capital, Kinshasa, that is thought to have drawn a million people, Pope Francis stated, "Let the Democratic Republic of the Congo be alone! Leave Africa alone! Stop suffocating Africa; it is neither a minefield to be cleared nor a place to be pillaged.
Since gaining independence in the 1960s, the DR Congo has seen constant violence. The struggle to control the country's natural wealth and ethnic strife have motivated some. The UN and the regional force in East Africa have drawn criticism from the general population for their inability to prevent the M23 rebels from taking vast areas of North Kivu.
Rwanda has been accused of supporting the M23 rebels; however, it denies the accusation that it supports the rebels, which is made by the DR Congo, the US, and UN experts. Rwanda has also criticized the Congolese government for failing to disarm Hutu rebels, some of whom were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
On Thursday, Uhuru Kenyatta, the former president of Kenya, urged the East African Community members to send all of their forces to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator of the EAC-led peace process in the Congo, said the troops should help protect liberated areas in eastern DRC from a battle between government forces and rebels after the EAC's extraordinary summit in Bujumbura.Kenyatta stated that "the Facilitator urges the countries of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to deploy and take up their positions urgently and without further delay throughout eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in the case of North Kivu, for the regional force to interpose itself between the fighting forces in areas where the withdrawal of the armed groups has been implemented."
He excused his absence from the Bujumbura Summit last Saturday by pointing to scheduling conflicts and short notice. Kenyatta, however, asserted that he agreed with the East African Community leaders' requests for a cease-fire, the expulsion of the rebels, and the setting of fresh deadlines for their departure.
However, the request for deployment could indicate his passionate support for the EACRF, which was given permission last year to serve as the EAC mission in the DR Congo to help establish peace.