DRC – Kasai: Political and Military Leaders Standing Trial For War Crimes And Crimes Against Humanity


On May 20, the trial of a dozen militiamen, local politicians and representatives of the Congolese security forces for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Kamonia territory between 2017 and 2018 opened in Tshikapa (Kasai province, Democratic Republic of Congo). The trial is taking place in the context of a deadly conflict in the Kasai region that opposed the customary chief Kamuina Nsapu and his supporters to the government in Kinshasa between 2016 and 2019. The conflict, coupled with inter-ethnic tensions, has resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of 1.4 million people. This trial could shed light, for the first time, on the responsibility of certain Congolese authorities in the Kasai conflict. The verdict is expected in early June.

Among the defendants are a Congolese police commander, village chiefs, a former national deputy and a former deputy governor of the province. They are alleged to have been involved in the formation of a militia, the Bana Mura, which is said to have committed crimes in Kamonia territory. The diversity of the defendants’ profiles also suggests collaboration between some local authorities and members of the state forces in the creation, arming, planning and incitement of the crimes perpetrated by the Bana Mura.

The Bana Mura militia was founded in Kasai province in March 2017 in response to attacks by the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion. Its fighters carried out ethnically-motivated massacres targeting populations associated with or supporting the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion, and in particular the Luba populations. The violence was widespread: villages were burnt down while the inhabitants, including children, were inside their homes. Victims were tortured, wounded and shot dead. Women and girls were abducted and kept as slaves for several years. Some of them were repeatedly raped and gave birth to children in captivity or were forced to have abortions.

« The crimes committed by the Bana Mura in the Kamonia territory represent the height of the violence that has affected the Kasai region. We hope that the Military Court will shed full light on these events and establish individual responsibility as well as that of the Congolese state for these atrocities.»

Isaac Ntambwe, lawyer at the Tshikapa bar and spokesman for the collective of victims’ lawyers in the case


The Military Court of the former Kasai Occidental, based in Kananga, held a mobile court hearing in Tshikapa in order to facilitate access to justice for more than a hundred victims made parties civiles in this case. TRIAL International has supported the documentation of crimes committed by the Bana Mura in collaboration with Congolese human rights NGOs. It has also provided free legal assistance to the civil parties through a group of local lawyers.

TRIAL International has already been involved in other cases linked to the conflict in Kasai. Trials against militiamen from the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion took place in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and resulted in convictions. The Kamonia trial is the first likely to lead to sanctions against representatives of local authorities and security forces involved in the commission of serious crimes perpetrated in this conflict.

The Kamonia trial updates

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