DR Congo: President Tshisekedi brushes off criticism over generals with ‘bloody history’

Félix Tshisekedi, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has dismissed accusations of past human rights violations allegedly committed by his military appointees in the restive North Kivu and Ituri provinces. 

The Head of State recently named Lieutenant-General Constant Ndima as the head of North Kivu and Lieutenant-General Johnny Nkashama Luboya as the head of Ituri province, a decision that has been criticized by Human Rights Watch (HRW). 

According to Nation Africa, General Ndima, who led a guerrilla militia, the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC), in the 2002 operation “Erase the Board,” is said to have a bloody track record. According to Human Rights Watch, General Luboya is a former rebel leader with the Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma) who is accused of overseeing massacres, rapes, and other violations by his troops. 

“The profile of the new military governors of these two provinces can only increase concerns about human rights and the protection of civilians.” HRW says of their recent appointments. 

“The state of siege in eastern DRC should not be used as a pretext for committing abuses,” the NGO said.

President Tshisekedi, on the other hand, seems to be annoyed by the rights lobby’s claims. He landed in Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the DRC, in the province of Haut-Katanga, after returning from Kampala, where he attended President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration. He reacted angrily to criticism from Human Rights Watch and parts of the international media in this speech. 

“Those who were screaming that there are 12 million dead or even 20 million dead in the East, now that we have taken action and we have appointed soldiers, wizards are again appearing to say that these officers have committed violence. Why did they not say that when they assumed their functions? It is only after their nomination that voices are raised to contest their nomination,” he said.

“I did not listen to them. The appointed lieutenant-generals are Congolese. They will work for the interests of the Congolese. Do not let yourself be manipulated by those who want the blood of the Congolese to continue to flow. I have promised to restore security throughout the country”, Mr Tshisekedi added.

Last week, the DRC’s presidency directed military and police officers to take over civil authority in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. This came after the volatile areas were declared under siege for 30 days beginning May 6th. 

“To respond to the situation during the state of siege, the provincial governments of Ituri and North Kivu, and the entities of these provinces, will be replaced by offices of the armed forces of the DRC or the national police,” the government said.

At this time, military courts would take the place of civilian courts in these provinces. 

According to the United Nations, armed groups have clashed in the provinces over land and natural resources in recent years, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

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