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Faith Nyasuguta

Twenty-five soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been sentenced to death by a military tribunal for deserting their posts during battles against M23 rebels and committing theft. This verdict was confirmed by their lawyer and an army spokesman on Thursday.

For over two years, Congo’s army has been engaged in combat with the M23 insurgency and various other militia groups, resulting in the displacement of approximately 2.7 million people in North Kivu province. The M23 rebels made significant territorial gains last week, intensifying the conflict.

/Financial Times/

On Tuesday, 27 soldiers were detained by the army after abandoning their positions in the villages of Keseghe and Matembe. Army spokesman Reagan Mbuyi Kalonji reported that the deserters were caught stealing goods from shops in the nearby village of Alimbongo. Additionally, four of the soldiers’ wives, who were residing in Alimbongo and received the stolen goods, were also detained.

A military tribunal was swiftly convened in Alimbongo on Wednesday to try the accused soldiers. The tribunal sentenced 25 of them to death on charges of theft, desertion, and violating orders. One soldier received a 10-year prison sentence, while the four wives and another soldier were acquitted. All the accused, except one, denied the charges, with only one soldier pleading guilty.

The soldiers’ lawyer, Jules Muvweko, has stated his intention to appeal the verdict.


Congo’s military has been plagued by internal divisions, insufficient resources, poor logistics, and endemic corruption, all of which have been exacerbated by the current crisis. This dysfunction has significantly hindered their efforts against the M23 insurgency. In May, eight officers were also sentenced to death for cowardice and other offenses, revealing the severe disarray within Congo’s armed forces.

In March, Congo lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, citing treachery and espionage in ongoing armed conflicts as justification. The moratorium had been in place since the early 2000s, although the death penalty had never been officially abolished.

This recent incident and the subsequent death sentences underscore the severe challenges facing Congo’s military as it continues to battle the M23 insurgency and other militia groups. The harsh penalties reflect the government’s desperate attempts to maintain discipline and order within its ranks amidst the escalating violence.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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