WALTER JAMES

Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.



Military Justice

01 Sep

On Tuesday, August 30, I attended the monthly meeting of the Uvira CTLVS (Comite Territoriale de la Lutte contre la Violence Sexuelle). The meeting broke down into the usual litany of complaints about lack of cooperation and initiative, since none of the member organizations in the CTLVS seem to want to work together or share their information with the CTLVS focal points.

At this particular CTLVS meeting, a captain from the FARDC showed up, wearing a crisp green uniform with polished epaulettes and gold braids. This captain was a magistrate, a member of the military justice division (“Auditoirat”) of the FARDC. Most recently, the FARDC military justice wing played a crucial role in convicting Col. Kibibi and his men for the January 1st mass rape in Fizi Centre. Every month, a number of cases are heard at the military court in Uvira, mostly stemming from incidents occurring close to Uvira town. However, in more remote, though well-documented, incidents in Uvira/Fizi (Kikozi, Nyakiele), FARDC military justice has been rather slow in even bringing the accused to trial.

I decided to ask the FARDC magistrate about his job and the history of the Auditoirat. He told me that the military justice wing had existed since 2003, when the modern incarnation of the Congolese military was created; their mandate is to investigate/redress wrongs committed by members of the military, as well as teach discipline and good behavior to the troops. In this part of South Kivu, the central Auditoriat based in Uvira is charged with military justice for the territories of Uvira, Fizi, Mwenga, and Shabunda. All cases are heard before the tribunal in Uvira before a panel of military judges; the magistrate himself serves as a prosecutor/investigator. The parquet performs investigations of infractions, prepares the legal dossiers, and presents the cases before the military tribunal. In June, a permanent military parquet opened in the town of Baraka in Fizi Territory, where several months prior a mobile military court (Audience foraine) had handed down Col. Kibibi’s conviction and sentence. Aside from the parquet in Uvira and the secondary parquet in Baraka, there are only “inspectors” present in Misisi, Kametuga, and Shabunda Centre, making the coverage of military justice fairly poor for a very large area (4 of the biggest territories in South Kivu).

I asked the magistrate if he felt that the FARDC today was a more disciplined body than it was eight years ago; his answer was an emphatic “yes”. I asked if FARDC troops cooperated with him in terms of carrying out justice and promoting good behavior within the ranks. Again, he said yes, but then he qualified his statement by saying “in any family, there is never a lack of disobedient children”.

I brought up the case of Col. Kifaru and his defected men, the alleged perpetrators of the mass rape case in Nyakiele in June, who have since been re-absorbed by the FARDC. At this point, our conversation ground to a halt. When I asked at what stage the Auditoirat was in investigating the strong allegations of rape against Col. Kifaru and his men, the magistrate became vague and elusive.

“We are still investigating,” was all he would say.

When I delicately probed further for details, the magistrate refused to divulge any more information, citing “professional secrets”. Maybe commenting on an ongoing investigation would have been a bit out of line for a magistrate, but all promises of “carrying out justice” disappeared once Nyakiele was brought up. Later, one of my CTLVS contacts told me that since the Congolese government’s stance on Nyakiele is rather clear (“ignore/discredit”), the Auditoirat probably will have no support in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

This kind of foot-dragging has also characterized the response to the Kikozi incident; investigations by the Auditoirat and MONUSCO have identified the commanding officer responsible for the unit implicated in the March mass rape (Major Shaka Nyamusalaba), but despite numerous calls from local NGOs to bring Maj. Shaka to Uvira for trial, no such action has been taken.

At the end of our conversation, the magistrate cordially invited me to attend the military tribunal in Uvira proper later in the week. I am planning on taking up his offer, so stay tuned for more.

Posted By WALTER JAMES

Posted Sep 1st, 2011

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