Suspects charged with crimes against humanity, malicious destruction and incitement of military personnel
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo opened the trial Tuesday of six military personnel, including two senior officers, accused of instructing soldiers to kill members of a religious sect who had gathered at the end of last month to protest against the presence of UN peacekeepers in North Kivu province.
Colonel Mike Mikombe, who heads the Republican Guard unit in the city of Goma, and Lieutenant-Colonel Donatien Bawili, who heads the Congolese armed forces regiment in Goma, appeared at the military court of North Kivu in Goma along with four other non-commissioned soldiers to hear their formal charges.
Arrested on Monday, the officers were charged with three counts including “crimes against humanity, malicious destruction of military effects and incitement of military personnel to commit acts contrary to duty or discipline.”
Mikombe is the key suspect who the prosecution says headed the unit of the Republican Guard that shot civilians.
At least 56 civilians were killed and 75 wounded in the deadly incident on Aug. 30, according to the prosecution, while the government put the death toll at 43.
Some independent sources claim the death toll reached 100.
The victims were reportedly killed after the army raided a crowd from a religious sect called the Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith Towards the Nations which had gathered to protest against the presence in the country of the UN peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO and regional forces from countries of the East African Community bloc.
The incident occurred in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The authorities had banned protests organized by the religious sect, which called themselves “Wazalendo,” or “Patriots,” which the military accused of sowing chaos.