Col Mike Mikombe was accused of ordering his officers to open fire on anti-UN protesters
An army colonel has been sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo for his role in the killing of more than 50 demonstrators in August.
Col Mike Mikombe, the ex-commander of the elite Republican Guard in Goma city, was accused of giving orders to open fire on anti-UN protesters.
His lawyers said he would appeal against the military court’s ruling.
This was the highest number of deaths in a crackdown on protests against UN peacekeepers in eastern DR Congo.
The protesters were demanding the withdrawal of UN troops, accusing them of failing to protect civilians who have been under decades-long attacks by rebel groups in the region.
The UN has almost 18,000 personnel in the country, including more than 12,000 soldiers, making it the second-largest UN mission globally.
The August protests were organised by a Christian sect known as Wazalendo (Patriots), to demand the departure of UN troops from the region.
The protesters also wanted Governor Ndima Kongba, who had earlier banned the demonstrations, to resign. The governor has since been replaced.
According to the state prosecutor, 56 civilians were killed and dozens others wounded during the demonstrations, sparking international condemnation.
More than 150 people were arrested during the crackdown by the security forces.
The court heard how amid chaotic scenes troops opened fire at the protesters, allegedly on the instruction of Col Mikombe.
He had suggested that he had been misled by an operational order identifying the sect members as proxies of the M23 rebel group, which had captured large swathes of territory in North Kivu province last year.
The death sentence is often handed down in DR Congo but no executions have taken place in more than 20 years. The sentences tend to be commuted to life imprisonment.
Col Mikombe was tried along with five other soldiers.
Three of them were sentenced to 10 years in prison, while two others, including Col Mikombe’s deputy, were acquitted.
An anti-UN protest in July 2022 led to more than 15 deaths, including three peacekeepers.
DR Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi, who is seeking re-election in December, has called on the UN force to begin leaving this year instead of next year as initially planned.
Last year, an East African force was deployed to eastern DR Congo to aid the Congolese military quell fighting – though it too has faced criticism of not doing enough to bring about stability.
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