Eight soldiers and one civilian in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-torn northeast have had death sentences for murder and embezzlement confirmed, court documents showed Tuesday.
In a case at Bunia high military court, two colonels, three other soldiers and a civilian were on Monday given capital punishment for murdering two Chinese gold workers.
All had been found guilty of murder and criminal association, including colonels Mukalenga Tsendeko and Kayumba Sumahili.
Three other soldiers who had been sentenced to 10 years in jail over the case were acquitted.
The two senior officers were accused of organising an attack on a convoy carrying four gold bars, $6,000 in cash and Chinese workers through Irumu territory in Ituri province.
The convoy, returning from a goldmine, came under assault at Nderemi village on March 17, 2022. Two Chinese men died and their civilian driver was wounded.
In a separate finding, DR Congo’s highest military court sentenced Lieutenant Colonel Marcel Kaligamire and two soldiers to die for “embezzling war munitions destined for military operations.”
Four more soldiers and three civilians charged in the same case had their sentences reduced from death to 10 years, while two other civilians were jailed for five years.
According to the prosecution, the munitions were sold by the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) which has since 2017 sowed violence across Ituri province’s gold fields.
The political-religious group has been blamed for killing large numbers of civilians in recent years in Ituri, which has been under a “state of siege”, along with its neighbour North Kivu, since May 2021.
Death sentences are routinely handed down in the Democratic Republic of Congo but are systematically commuted to life in prison.