Tags: Congo | soldiers | murder | reporter

Congo Soldiers Convicted in Reporter Murder

Wednesday, 05 May 2010 11:15 AM

KINSHASA – Two Congolese soldiers and a civilian have been sentenced to death by a military court for the murder of a high-profile journalist in eastern DR Congo in 2008, a judge said Wednesday.

Didace Namujimbo, 34, was a journalist for UN-sponsored Radio Okapi when he was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bukavu in November 2008.

He had been dropped off at his home minutes earlier by a vehicle belonging to MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission.

The two soldiers, Sergeant-Major Seba Tandema and Sergeant Oscar Tchenda Kashama, were sentenced to death by the court late Tuesday, along with a civilian named only as Mushamuka, the military judge at the Bukavu garrison said on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors had demanded the court impose the death sentence on six soldiers, as well as the civilian. The others were sentenced to five years in prison, the judge said.

The state and the three convicts must also pay damages of 500,000 dollars (385,000 euros) and 250,000 dollars respectively to the widow and father of the victim.

The death sentence is imposed for capital crimes in the DR Congo, but since 1999 has been commuted to life imprisonment.

Six journalists have been killed in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since 2005.

Congolese media rights group Journaliste en Danger (JED) has previously denounced "intimidation, denigration and threats" against journalists in the region, which for a decade has been the theatre of ongoing clashes between the army and several rebel groups.

In a statement to coincide with World Press Freedom day, the government on Monday called for a united effort to protect journalists from assassination, but also to ensure that such crimes are not "manipulated" to appear as if the government had something to do with the murders.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende lashed out at what he said was a bid to link the government with "supposed systematic violations of press freedoms" and a "presupposition that the government is in some way an enemy of this freedom."

"When they kill journalists in Kinshasa, in Bukavu or in Beni, when others are threatened, it's the government which is challenged. It cannot therefore be accused of these crimes," he said.

Mende said he also hoped for an end to the "manipulation of crimes identified for the most part as villainous by the judiciary, to have people believe there exists a government policy of repression of press freedoms."

JED said Monday it had documented "37 cases of attacks on the freedom of the press" since the beginning of January, which it said was a 19 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2009.

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KINSHASA – Two Congolese soldiers and a civilian have been sentenced to death by a military court for the murder of a high-profile journalist in eastern DR Congo in 2008, a judge said Wednesday.
Congo,soldiers,murder,reporter
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2010-15-05
 
 

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