DR Congo: Jean-Pierre Bemba returns ‘home’ to run for President after 10 years in exile and prison

  • August 2, 2018

Former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, arrived home on Wednesday in a private jet and was greeted by huge crowds chanting his name. He had left DRC in 2007 and returned after 10 years in exile and prison in The Hague.

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) from 2002 to 2003. The trial had started on November 22, 2010.

He was accused of failing to prevent his rebels killing and raping. But a judge has now said he cannot be held responsible for their actions.

Christine Van den Wijngaert also said the judges in the 2016 case had failed to take into account his attempts to stop the crimes once he was made aware they were taking place.

The 55-year-old was acquitted after the International Criminal Court overturned the 18-year sentence following an appeal on June 8, 2018.

This was a huge blow for the prosecutors who considered Bemba’s conviction as a warning to other leaders that they could be held liable for the actions of troops under their command, even when they are committing atrocities on foreign soil.

An appeal against his conviction for witness tampering is still pending.

Bemba had declared his intention to run for the long-delayed Presidential Elections in December this year. He is due to file his candidacy with the Electoral Commission. However, President Joseph Kabila’s government has stated he is not eligible because of a corruption conviction. But Bemba told media agencies that the government did “not have the right” to decide who could be a candidate in the election.

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