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Congo-Kinshasa: Bemba Served His Time, Now Let Him Serve His People


Photograph: La Prospérité

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, DRC Senator and former presidential contender

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Bemba was in penitentiary for the 8 years All Through his trial on the ICC. He should be sentenced to time already served so he can return to the DRC the place his leadership is required, argues Hank Cohen.

Jean-Pierre Bemba used to be vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from 2003 to 2006. He Is the favored political chief of the Congo’s Equateur Province within the u . s .’s northwest, a neighborhood the size of France.

Between 1998 and 2002, the DRC used to be in a state of civil conflict, with a couple of African international locations concerned militarily in fortify of the government or in enhance of more than a few revolt actions. Right Through this period, Jean-Pierre Bemba was President of the MLC birthday party (Movement for the Liberation of the Congo). His party additionally had an armed wing of a couple of thousand combatants who supported the federal government towards quite a lot of rebellion actions.

The preventing in the DRC stopped in 2002, leading to a negotiated new constitution, and a transitional govt from 2003 to 2006. All Through this era, Bemba was one of 4 transitional vice-presidents below the transitional president, Joseph Kabila. The Primary postwar democratic election used to be held in 2006, with Bemba acquiring probably the most votes in the first spherical, Before dropping to Kabila in the second spherical with 42% of the vote.

Before this although in 2002-2003, with a ceasefire in position in the DRC, Bemba made up our minds to ship his militia to neighbouring Central African Republic (AUTOMOTIVE) in beef up of President Ange-Félix Patassé who was dealing with numerous armed rebellions.

Patassé had previously helped Bemba organise his armed power within the DRC. The civil war within the AUTOMOTIVE was once specifically nasty within the moves dedicated against civilian populations With The Aid Of the completely different armed factions, including Bemba’s.

In view of crimes allegedly dedicated By Using his militia within the CAR, Jean-Pierre Bemba used to be indicted By Means Of the World Prison Court Docket in the Hague for “crimes in opposition to humanity” in 2008.

The indictment mentioned that Bemba’s militia engaged in pillaging, rape and other crimes towards civilians, including cannibalism. The prosecution document did not accuse Bemba of inciting his warring parties to commit crimes towards civilians. However, the prosecution accused him of failing to engage in right kind supervision to be able to prevent the crimes allegedly dedicated Through his males.

After eight years of deliberations, the Court Docket convicted Bemba of conflict crimes and crimes in opposition to humanity this March. In July, the Courtroom passed down a sentence of 18 years in jail, eight of which have already been served. His defence has determined to attraction.

I Have learn documents produced By Way Of each the prosecution and the defence. As a former armed forces officer, I imagine that the commander of troops is responsible for everything his infantrymen do, or fail to do. However in the case of Bemba, I believe there are mitigating cases. Crucial being that for far of the time his troops have been within the AUTOMOBILE, he was in South Africa engaged in negotiations for the political transition and elections within the DRC.

It Is Not my position to argue about Bemba’s guilt or innocence. Then Again, I firmly believe that the character of the offence will have to no longer be the reason for a long prison sentence as in the instances of Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor and Chad’s former president Hissène Habré, each of whom actively encouraged atrocities in opposition to civilian populations. Bemba’s main offence used to be apparently overlook.

Bemba has already served eight years in prison All The Way Through the lengthy period of the trial. Given the nature of accusations against him, I believe these eight years are sufficient and that he must be sentenced to time already served.

Except For the issue of justice, Bemba is required within the DRC to resume his position as a political leader of a tremendous ethnic area in Equateur Province. His vote tally in the 2006 election indicated that he is fairly common and has significant leadership characteristics. This Is especially vital at the moment since the DRC is going through a length of constitutional and political quandary.

President Kabila’s 2nd and ultimate time period officially ends in December 2016, However He’s exhibiting signs of now not trying to leave and of probably finding the right way to stay in power indefinitely. It Is A period when the opposition needs to be unified to be able to maintain maximum drive towards the regime, and Bemba is required to stand with the opposition in give a boost to of constitutional democracy.

My message to the World Felony Court Docket is brief: Bemba has already served his time; now let him to come to the DRC to serve his Individuals.

Herman J. Cohen is a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

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