Court declines to prosecute Congolese politician for shooting down civilian plane in 1998

Court declines to prosecute Congolese politician for shooting down civilian plane in 1998
Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, predident of the Congolese Senate © Belga

A committal hearing in Brussels this week has decided not to prosecute a former Congolese rebel, now president of the country’s Senate, for crimes against humanity, his lawyer said.

Alexis Thambwe Mwamba was a spokesperson for the rebel movement RCD in 1998 when it brought down a civilian aircraft of Lignes Aériennes Congolaises on take-off from Kindu in Maniema province. All 41 people on board were killed.

Mwamba was a member of the group responsible, the Congolese Assembly Movement for Democracy (ECD), which was rebelling against the regime of president Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the country’s third president, who had overthrown his predecessor Mobutu Sese Seko, and who was later assassinated and succeeded by his son Joseph.

Mwamba had argued that as spokesperson for the group, he had taken part in no operational activity, and was therefore not to be held responsible for the downing of the plane.

The Brussels court, asked to send Mwamba for trial, followed the defence line. “We have always said that there was not a single item of evidence or any sort of proof of guilt in this prosecution,” his lawyer Laurent Kennis told Belga. “This was all started on the basis of a targeted, but very vague complaint.”

The court also declared itself not competent to judge another complaint brought by the Congolese anti-corruption organisation Licof, alleging misuse of public funds, corruption, money laundering and forgery.

Mwamba, now aged 76, has been president of the Congolese Senate since July last year. Prior to that he served as a minister for foreign affairs, and planning and reconstruction. He has represented Kindu in the National Assembly since 2006.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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