Kyungu Mutanga

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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Kyungu Mutanga, also known as Gideon, was the head of a vigilante militia, made up of combatants from the Mai-Mai resistance movement which was rife in the province of Katanga in south-eastern DRC. Kyungu Mutanga has sponsored and participated in several crimes committed against civilians in the towns of Mitwaba, Pweto and Manono between 2003 and 2006.

The Mai Mai had initially been asked to assist Kabila to take power in 1996 and 1997. They were subsequently armed by the Congolese authorities, under the government of Laurent Kabila, and assisted the government authorities to combat the invasion of foreign and local armed forces who were occupying the eastern DRC supported by Rwanda.

The Mai Mai presented themselves as a force of popular resistance against foreign armies occupying the territory of the DRC. They were excluded after the cease-fire in Lusaka in 1999 but remained active.

In November 2005, the government undertook to disarm the local and foreign armed groups active in the country. The armed forces of the DRC launched a military operation to suppress the rebellion led by the Mai Mai in Katanga. During this operation, the DRC army arrested hundreds of civilians suspected of having links with the Mai Mai rebels and executed and tortured to death dozens of them. It has also been alleged that the DRC armed forces raped women suspected of supporting the Mai Mai.

The Mai Mai refused disarmament and were separated from the central government. Kyungu Mutanga and other Mai Mai leaders felt that they were not properly rewarded for their commitment to the government forces. The Mai Mai therefore turned against the central government and the local communities. Tracked since November 2005 by government armed forces and suspected of having committed crimes against the civilian population, the Mai Mai contributed to the insecurity for the civilian population and have engaged in violent confrontations with government forces.

On 12 May 2006, following campaigns by the government forces and the United Nations, Kyungu Mutanga and some Mai Mai warriors surrendered to peacekeepers of the United Nations mission in Congo (MONUC) who were stationed in Mitwaba about 300km north of Lubumbashi in Katanga province. Kyungu Mutanga was accompanied by a group of 150 Mai Mai fighters which, according to data provided by the United Nations, included 76 child soldiers. Kyungu Mutanga expressed a desire to be part of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. He offered to assist the MONUC officials by calling on his militiamen to surrender.

On 16 May 2006, MONUC handed Kyungu Mutanga over to the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Superior Military Auditor Lubumbashi then became seized of the matter. Kyungu Mutanga was detained under the authority of the military court but was not immediately charged.

According to a special report issued by MONUC on 6 July 2006, the charges against Kyungu Mutanga and his men mainly concerned allegations of summary executions of civilians, rape, looting and abuse of civilians between 2003 and 2006 in central Katanga. The Mai Mai have notably tortured civilian victims in public places, before engaging in acts of cannibalism as part of ceremonies of which the purpose was to terrorize the population. Among the charges against Kyungu Mutanga are the murder of the wife of the Director of the Upemba National Park, the recruitment of children to serve in the Mai Mai armed forces, acts of cannibalism, the use of firearms and the creation of an insurgent movement. MONUC have highlighted that the Mai Mai militia have taken no steps to investigate human rights violations committed by their supporters.

Mutanga has been held by the military authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 16 May 2006.

legal procedure

Kyungu Mutanga has been held by the military authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 16 May 2006.

On 10 July 2007, Kyungu Mutanga was formally charged by the Military Prosecutor of Kipushi. The indictment states him as being prosecuted for “war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism and insurgency [in central Katanga] in the towns of Mitwaba, Pweto and Manono between October 2003 and May 2006″.

The trial of Mutanga, the former Mai Mai warlord by the public prosecutor began on 7 August 2007 before the Kipushi Garrison Military Tribunal in Katanga.

Several individuals were called to give evidence to prove that under the command of Mutanga, the Mai Mai were involved in armed attacks, murder, arbitrary executions, cannibalism, mutilation, rape and sexual slavery. These crimes were allegedly perpetrated in central Katanga province between 2003 and 2006. At the hearings of 25 and 28 September 2007, witnesses, including an individual who facilitated the surrender of Mutanga and the chaplain of the 63rd Brigade, gave evidence about the arbitrary execution of a priest by Mutanga’s men. A MONUC report also mentions that a witness claimed to have be subjected to acts for which Gideon and the men acting on his orders were charged. The report also confirmed the allegations of cannibalism and mutilation. At both hearings, the accused denied the charges against him.

On 24 October 2007, the Public Prosecutor on the authority of a warrant issued during the hearing at the garrison military court implemented the transfer of Gideon from the officers’ mess of Lubumbashi, to the Kasapa central prison.

On 30 October 2007, the Prosecutor of the Kipushi Military Garrison announced that eleven new people including the wife of Mutanga, two of her children, three bodyguards and his older brother, had been summoned to appear before the Tribunal. The garrison military court of Katanga requested that they be indictment for complicity to commit murder. The hearings took place in November 2007. These eleven people appeared before the Court on 6 November 2007 and were indicted on 8 November 2007. The bodyguards notably gave evidence on the role played by Mutanga on 27 November 2007. The hearing was adjourned to 4 December 2007.

Since the beginning of the trial, there have been many interruptions. In addition, Mutanga has vigorously denied his involvement in the acts in question and claimed to have heard of the charges against him and his men for the first time in court.

On 6 March 2009, Mutanga was sentenced to death for war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism and insurgency.

Mutanga’s wife, and one of his six co-defendants, Kasereka, were sentenced to seven and ten years in prison. Five defendants were acquitted due to lack of evidence by the court.

Lawyers for the militia leader Gideon and those of the Congolese state have appealed



After almost 40 years under the dictatorship of Mobutu, a new period of conflicts broke out in 1996 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Belgian Congo, Congo-Leopoldville or Zaire), as a result of the spill-over of the civil war raging in the neighboring Rwanda. At the end of the armed conflict – involving Rwanda and Uganda – Mobutu had to abscond, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila become the new Congo’s President.


Already in 1998 Kabila’s alliance with Rwanda and Uganda had turned in a state of hostility. Rebel groups engaged an armed conflict against governmental forces. Due to the involvement of about 25 armed groups and eight States – Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe supporting DRC’s government, versus Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi supporting the rebels – the war is also known as Great War of Africa.

On 18 January 2001 Laurent Kabila died for the consequences of an attempt to his life, leaving the country in his son Joseph’s hands. After various ceasefire agreements during the years, the war formally ended in 2002. The peace agreement leads to new elections, won by Joseph Kabila.


New armed conflicts continued however in border regions of DRC between governmental forces and rebel groups. Ethnical differences and the high amount of natural resources present in the Kivus and in Ituri are among the main causes of the hostilities. Despite the fragile peace agreements signed in 2007 (Ituri) and in 2009 (Kivus), thousands of people keep dying due to famine and devastations left by the conflicts.


In 2005 the International Court of Justice recognized Uganda’s responsibility for violation of DRC territorial integrity during the Second Congo war, and for the unlawful exploitation of a consistent amount of DRC’s natural resources.

In 2005 Joseph Kabila referred DRC’s situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Prosecutor to open investigations on crimes committed anywhere on DRC’s territory since the entry into force of the ICC Statute. To date the ICC has indicted five people for the situation in DRC. Among these, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was the first person ever to be convicted by the ICC.