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Congolese Welcome Katanga Conviction

posted 7 Mar 2014, 13:05 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 Mar 2014, 13:06 ]

In Goma, a city that has been badly affected by armed conflict, residents welcome the conviction at the ICC of Congolese warlord Germain Katanga.

GOMADEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (MARCH 7, 2014)(REUTERS) - Congolese warlord Germain Katanga was convicted on Friday (March 7) of being an accessory to war crimes including murder and pillage - only the second conviction in the 12-year history of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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Two of the three judges found that Katanga had made a significant contribution to a February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, in a diamond-rich region ofnortheast Congo, by procuring guns to speed the massacre by ethnic Lendu and Ngiti fighters of some 200 ethnic Hema civilians.

In Goma, a city of a million people on the Rwandan border, residents suffered at the hands of armed groups when the area fell to rebel forces in 2012.

One resident, Yvon Ndege, said anyone involved in war crimes deserved to be sent to jail.

"All criminals, and all those who have committed atrocities like war crimes, everyone should stand trial," he said.

Currently in Goma, a group of Congolese soldiers are facing trial after being charged with sexual abuse in various parts of eastern Congo.

Prosecution lawyer, Eva Lingwa, compared the trial to the case at The Hague.

"Today here in Goma, we are trying soldiers just like the case of Germain at the ICC. We are hoping the victims' voices will be heard and understood. That is why the government of Congo and the international community must take responsibility," she said.

Katanga, 31, also known as "Simba", had from 2003 led the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI), a militia fighting for the interests of the Lendu ethnic group against the Hema group in the east of Congo.

Aside from his conviction over a specific attack, Katanga was acquitted of charges of rape and using child soldiers, and can appeal the verdict.

He could be jailed for up to 30 years when he is sentenced in several months' time.