Close to 600 armed forces officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are slated to undergo a United Nations-backed military justice refresher course beginning this weekend in Kinshasa, capital of the war-ravaged African nation.
During the one-week workshop for Congolese military staff, participants will review the country’s legal texts and international humanitarian law, as well as subjects such as sexual abuse, military court management and the code of conduct for judiciary officials.
The workshops, aimed at promoting greater communication to all involved in the military legal structure, will be held throughout the DRC until June and participants will include magistrates, members of the judiciary, police inspectors, court clerks, prosecutors’ secretariat staff, registrars, military commanders and lawyers. Civilian lawyers are also expected to participate to familiarize themselves with military law.
The project, funded by the Netherlands and dubbed “Support for the Reinforcement of the Capacities of the Military Justice System in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” is supported by the Rule of Law Unit of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
MONUC was originally set up in 1999 with a mandated force of some 5,500 to help enforce a ceasefire after years of civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease before it ended earlier this decade.
Since then its forces have been steadily increased and in 2006, the UN helped organize presidential, national and provincial elections, the largest and most complex polls it has ever helped to run.
While much of the country has since been relatively calm, eastern DRC has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months between the Congolese army and various rebel militia groups that has displaced some 250,000 civilians since August, on top of 800,000 uprooted in earlier outbreaks of violence.