In DRC, trial opens against militia leader Kokodikoko and his accomplices

19.09.2019

They terrorized a dozen villages in South Kivu. Arrested in April 2019, rebel leader Frédéric Masudi Alimasi, alias Kokodikoko, and four of his accomplices must now answer for their crimes. The large-scale trial involves more than 300 victims, mostly of sexual violence.

Kokodikoko and his men persecuted civilians in more than fifteen villages ©Sylvain Liechti

As of 12 September 2019, the Bukavu Garrison Court (South Kivu) is hearing the case of five members of an armed group that is infamous in DRC, namely Raia Mutomboki Kokodikoko. Its leader Frédéric Masudi Alimasi, who goes by the nom de guerre Kokodikoko, was captured by the army in April 2019 during a peacekeeping operation in the Shabunda territory.

From February to September 2018, Kokodikoko and his men—sometimes together with other Raia Mutomboki factions—persecuted civilians in more than fifteen villages and were involved in murders, rapes, sexual slavery, torture, forcible detention, looting and destruction of property. The crimes claimed hundreds of victims in two territories of the South Kivu province (Mwenga and Shabunda) and could amount to crimes against humanity.

Presented to the judges for the first time on 3 September 2019, the five accused admitted to being part of the armed group Kokodikoko. Kokodikoko himself was its brigade commander, while Kaburi Wazi Samitamba was the group’s administrator and logistician. The other three accused were simply fighters.

Document the crimes quickly in hopes of a trial

As part of this case, TRIAL International and its partners* had already begun documenting the crimes committed by the group even before Kokodikoko was arrested. This is a common strategy that helps collect evidence whose probative value decreases over time, such as medical elements and witness statements.

If we waited for a trial to begin to document mass crimes, evidence would escape us on a large scale”, explains Chiara Gabriele, Legal Advisor for TRIAL International in DRC. “When security permits it, we quickly document the crimes after they have been committed in order to be able to react swiftly when the suspects are arrested.

By assisting victims, TRIAL also contributed to additional investigative missions.

Court hearings in three different locations

With a view to bring justice closer to the people affected, some of the hearings in the Kokodikoko case will take place at the crime locations. As such, the judges, the accused and the court will travel to areas affected by the militia.

It was TRIAL International’s expertise that helped establish that the crimes committed in the territories of Mwenga and Shabunda were the actions of the same group. After noticing a similar modus operandi and based on the evidence gathered, the crimes committed within the two territories were added to the same case. TRIAL International remains involved in the legal strategy and the follow-up with lawyers representing the victims.

 

*TRIAL International’s contribution to this case is carried out in the framework of the Task Force for International Criminal Justice, an informal network of international players who work together to support the work of Congolese military courts in investigating and prosecuting mass crimes in DRC.