Just days ago, on June 21, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to 18 years in jail for war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR). The crimes for which Bemba has been sentenced, were committed by soldiers under his command in the early 2000s, making Bemba the first person that the ICC has convicted for the crimes of his subordinates.
Bemba was found directly responsible for two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes committed in CAR between October 2002 and March 2003. His involvement in CAR began when former CAR president Ange-Félix Patassé’s enlisted the support of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) in his efforts to quell an attempted coup.
Acting as the military’s commander, Bemba allowed MLC fighters to commit the crimes for which he is now held responsible for. This sentencing represents justice for victims of violence at the hands of Bemba and the MLC. More than that, this conviction is a sign of hope for those communities in CAR who continue to suffer at the hands of other armed groups like Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
In 2005, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kony for the crimes he continues to commit and orders LRA fighters to commit. While he continues to remain at large, we will not stop working to protect families from LRA crimes or stop amplifying the voices of those who LRA violence affects until Joseph Kony too is brought to justice and there is an end to his atrocities.
As justice plays out for those affected by Bemba and the MLC’s crimes, it is important to remember that large-scale violence is still an ongoing issue for thousands in central Africa. We remain committed to empowering vulnerable communities to protect themselves and have their voices heard when crimes are committed against them.
Programs like our Early Warning Radio Network and LRA Crisis Tracker disrupt these patterns of violence and hold perpetrators accountable. By providing vulnerable communities with the tools and support they need to protect themselves from violence we are creating pathways to sustainable solutions for peace.