Lawyers slam ‘biased’ trial against DR Congo MP

Attorneys representing an MP facing charges of treason and alleged contact with M23 rebels criticized what they referred to as a “biased” trial rooted in discrimination against Tutsis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Detained for questioning in early March, Edouard Mwangachuchu, who serves as the representative for the Masisi constituency in the national assembly and owns a mining company, is currently undergoing trial in a military court in Kinshasa.

The prosecution on Friday called for the 70-year-old to be jailed for life.

On Monday, the defense asserted that the evidence presented in court against Mwangachuchu revolves around his affiliation with the Tutsi ethnic group.

“We condemn a trial of hatred and stigmatisation based on stereotypes and exclusion, a trial of discrimination,” Thomas Gamakolo, spokesman for a group of defence lawyers, told a press conference.

“The 30 days of hearing for this trial have been fuelled by anti-Tutsi and anti-Rwanda sentiments skilfully sustained by the prosecution.”

As stated by the defense team, the case against Mwangachuchu originated from reports by individuals identifying as “Hutu peasants” from the Nyatura armed group, who alleged the discovery of an arms cache at a mine.

Mwangachuchu, who has visited Rwanda, “has a Rwandan soul”, Gamakolo said.

“That’s serious. Assimilating an individual with a Rwandan these days, as the prosecution is doing, is to vilify them, if not condemn them to death in the eyes of public opinion,” he said.

Emerging from a period of inactivity in 2021, the Tutsi-led M23 militia has seized significant portions of land in North Kivu province.

Unaffiliated UN experts, the Kinshasa administration, and numerous Western countries, including the United States and France, level allegations against Rwanda of actively supporting the M23 group.

Kigali vehemently refutes the accusation and counters by asserting that Kinshasa supports the ethnic Hutu FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), which encompasses individuals accused of orchestrating the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

“Our client is being made a sacrificial offering for all the supposed crimes and errors committed by Tutsis,” Gamakolo said.

In recent months, a multitude of Congolese politicians and security personnel have faced accusations of having connections with the M23 opposition.

For decades, militias and insurgent factions have afflicted a significant portion of eastern DRC, with many of them stemming from the aftermath of regional conflicts that escalated in the final years of the previous century.

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