DRC: Thomas Lubanga and Floribert Ndjabu regain freedom in Ituri civil society

In northeastern DRC, the last members of the presidential task force who have been held hostage by the Codeco armed group for more than two months are now free. Former warlords Thomas Lubanga and Floribert Ndjabu, respectively coordinator and deputy coordinator of the team of emissaries sent to Ituri to negotiate a cease-fire with the militiamen, have been released. The circumstances of this end of the ordeal remained unclear until Thomas Lubanga spoke personally.
“We were in a bottleneck. There was no way out for us because of the bids that were put up on us by our captors. We were trophies for our captors with which they could blackmail us as much as they wanted and for months,” said Thomas Lubanga after his release. At the foot of a hill in the town of Lopa, several dozen kilometers from the capital Bunia, he was welcomed by the army and his family.
A total of eight members of the presidential task force were taken hostage on February 16 by fighters from the armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco). The delegation included former warlords Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga – once convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in the early 2000s – Floribert Ndjabu, Professor Jean-Baptiste Dhechuvi, Janvier Ayendu Bin Ekwale, two Congolese army colonels and the group’s driver. The first hostage, Professor Jean-Baptiste Dhechuvi, was released on March 21, followed by three others, including General Germain Katanga, on April 4.
Thomas Lubanga assured that their release, on Monday at around two o’clock, had been made possible thanks to “perfect coordination of our armed forces with the colonels who were (hostage) with us”. “We have benefited from professional guidance from the operational sector, the Republican Guard. It is a liberation of warriors, of bravery,” Mr. Lubanga added before being rushed to the capital Kinshasa in the early afternoon with members of the task force of which he is the coordinator.
The militia was demanding an end to the state of siege, the release of prisoners and an amnesty. Several dozen detainees believed to be Codeco fighters were released by Congolese authorities in Bunia in late March in exchange for the release of the first four hostages.
Ituri and the neighboring province of North Kivu have been under siege for eleven months. The measure has so far failed to end the abuses of armed groups in the region. Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, heading a strong government delegation, began a five-day visit to the region on Monday to assess the measure, which has been criticized by the opposition and civil society.

About Geraldine Boechat 1956 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia