The rape trial of Colonel 106 - a test for Congo’s military justice
Last month a small courtroom perched on a green hill in South Kivu province began hosting a trial many see as a crucial test for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s judiciary. In the dock before a three-judge panel military court is Colonel Bedi Mobuli Engangela, an army officer once one of the most feared men in eastern Congo.
Engangela’s trial is viewed as an opportunity to show if the DRC’s military justice is willing to convict high-ranking officers in cases of sexual violence. The officer, who is also known as Colonel 106, is accused of crimes against humanity in having ordered and/or committed rape, murder and looting between 2005 and 2006 in the east of the country. He denies all the charges.
“It is a very symbolic case,” said Scott Campbell of the UN’s mission in Congo, MONUSCO. “[Engangela] has committed many of the most serious crimes that we see all too often in DR Congo.” MONUSCO helped put the case against Colonel 106 together and sees it, according to Campbell, “as a bit of a test case” to determine if the military can deliver justice for “very serious crimes committed by a senior officer within the Congolese army”.
The trial started on 11 August in the tiny village of Kalehe. In its first week, the four benches in the modest-sized space were packed with spectators. Engangela, clad in uniform and surrounded by his defence lawyers, looked relaxed and self-assured.