DRC ministers threatened in Bemba war-crimes case

Shots were fired on the home of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) foreign minister and a Cabinet colleague amid warnings not to testify in the war-crimes trial of former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, they said Monday.

The residences in Kinshasa of Foreign Minister Alexis Tambwe Mwamba and Environment Minister Jose Endundo were targeted in the shootings late on Sunday, after which an envelope containing a bullet and a written death threat was left for each man.

Tambwe and Endundo are influential former figures in Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) party.

Bemba (46) faces trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Hague-based court granted Bemba a conditional release earlier this month pending trial. The court is currently seeking a country willing to host him until the trial begins.

Foreign Minister Alexis Tambwe Mwanba was on a visit to Libya at the time of the incident. “I was informed this morning that heavy fire was heard at my place and a threatening letter left behind.” Environment Minister Jose Endundo said that “around midnight, I heard a loud detonation caused by two shots against the entrance gate of my residence”.

He said the gunmen fled, leaving a threatening letter and a bullet. “If you testify against Bemba, you’re dead,” the minister quoted the letter as saying.

Bemba stands accused of three charges of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity allegedly committed from October 2002 to March 2003.

The acts of murder, rape and pillaging of which he is accused were allegedly committed by members of his MLC while helping troops of then-Central African Republic president Ange-Felix Patasse fight off a coup bid.

No trial date has been set.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has appealed against his conditional release on the grounds that Bemba poses a flight risk.—Sapa-AFP

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