Congolese MP Fined $100m, Given 8 Days, and Sentenced to Death Over M23 Rebels

Édouard Mwangachuchu, MP of Masisi territory, North Kivu Province has been sentenced to death by a Gallison Military court after pleading guilty to backing the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels. 

Mwangachuchu, who is also the president of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a political movement, and the director of Bisunzu mining company that deals in Coltan mining in Rubaya, Masisi territory, North Kivu Province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested in March this year.

The court presided over by Gen Robert Kalala which convened on Friday at Ndolo prison ruled that Mwangachuchu was guilty of treason, participation in an insurrectional movement (M23), and illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.        

The court also fined him $100 million payable in Congolese francs as damages caused to the Congolese state. The court ordered him to pay the fine within 8 days. A police officer Robert Mushamalirwa, Mwangachuchu’s co-accused on the same charges was however acquitted by the court after he pleaded innocent. 

Maître Thomas Gamakolo, Mwangachuchu’s lawyer, protested the ruling arguing that it is based on ethnic harassment against Kinyarwanda-speaking people in North Kivu. Mushamalirwa also denounced the conditions of his client’s detention, asserting that he was seriously ill and that he was refused access to a cardiologist despite medical evidence of his heart disease.      

The ruling against Mwangachuchu comes at a time when there is fresh and intense fighting between the Militia coalition under their umbrella Wazalendo (patriotic) and the M23 rebels intensified in North Kivu province, despite the cease-fire decree by East African Community Heads of States.      

On Friday Wazalendo claimed to have conquered 21 villages during three days of nonstop fighting and vowed to continue launching assault at M23 positions until they (M23) retreated to Rwanda. M23 accused Wazalendo of collaborating with Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers in violation of a cease-fire by starting war. 

M23 also accused Wazalendo and FARDC of burning houses belonging to civilians in Nturo Locality Yamitaba Groupement, in Masisi. M23 also accused Burundian troops in Kitchanga town of betraying the East African Community heads of state resolutions by handing over the town and other neighboring areas to Wazalendo and FARDC. Both FARDC and Wazalendo refuted the accusations of burning locals’ houses in Nturo. 

Burundian troops also refuted accusations of collaborating with Wazalendo. A lull of gun sounds was heard on all the fronts on Saturday morning. M23 rebels who were in positions in Bishusha had advanced to get closer to Kitshanga, according to a local resident in the area. 

The Wazalendo by Saturday were retreating from Kilorirwe towards Kibati due to a lack of ammunition supply. The M23 rebels were by Saturday in Kilolirwe, a source adds.    

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