One person out of a delegation of eight negotiators sent by President Felix Tshisekedi to negotiate peace with rebels in Ituri province of DR Congo —and were taken hostage— was released on Monday, March 21.
“Professor Jean-Baptiste Dhechuvi was freed after 35 days in captivity principally for health reasons,” Pitchou Mbodina, spokesperson of the Taskforce for Peace, Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Ituri said in a statement.
The eight peace negotiators were taken hostage on Feb. 16, 2022 by rebels of the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO).
Among the hostages are two former warlords, Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga, who were previously convicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the early 2000s.
“We just demonstrated our goodwill by freeing him,” Basa Zupta Gerson, one of the leaders of CODECO declared, adding that the liberation comes after a “first gesture made by the government which freed some our people and innocent civilians assimilated to elements of CODECO.”
The eight-man delegation including warlords Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga and Floribert Ndjabu, were sent on mission by President Felix Tshisekedi to negotiate a ceasefire and demobilisation of militia in Ituri province prone to violence that is considered by the United Nations as crimes against humanity.
While the negotiators were in talks with CODECO militia, the rebels took them hostage, accusing the army of bombarding the zone during the meeting.
The rebels have since given conditions for their liberation including the freeing of CODECO prisoners and members of the Lendu community ‘arbitrarily arrested’, the end to military operations and the lifting of the state of siege.
The “Taskforce for Peace, Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Ituri” has in a statement assured CODECO that “the state has received its claims and calls on the armed group to free all the hostages”.
The CODECO militia is a mystic-military organisation which claims to defend members of the Lendu community. According to the United Nations and the DR Congo authorities, the militia of CODECO are responsible for most of the violence in Ituri.
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