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Death penalty for soldier charged with killing poll officials

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©  Richard Pituwa/IRIN

Soldiers surround Sgt Innocent Mamale (in orange T-shirt), after a military tribunal in Bunia sentenced him to death for killing two polling clerks

BUNIA, 31 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - A military tribunal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's northeastern district of Ituri sentenced a soldier to death on Tuesday for killing two polling clerks.

Sergeant Innocent Mamale on Sunday shot dead the two clerks from the Independent Electoral Commission in Fataki, 90 kilometres from Bunia, the largest town in Ituri.

"In addition, he [Mamale] will have to pay an equivalent of US $30,000 in Congolese Francs as compensation to each of the families of the victims," said Maj Innocent Mayembe, the presiding judge of the military tribunal.

The tribunal also condemned Mamale to three years imprisonment for abandoning his post and fined him 15,000 Congolese francs.

Mamale originally shot at five electoral commission agents in Fataki.

"I saw as if someone left the electoral office then I opened fire," Mamale told the tribunal. "I do not know what happened to me and it is for the first time in my life."

Separate reports say eight agents were injured in the incident.

The dead polling clerks were locals, with one woman (unnamed) coming from an area under the control of militia leader Peter Karim. Karim, who was appointed a colonel in the army in October, is the leader of the Front des Nationalistes Intégrationnistes (FNI).

To avenge the deaths, the victims' families ransacked and burnt electoral offices in Fataki. "Thirty-seven of the 85 offices in Fataki were ransacked," said John Ukunya, the head of the electoral office in Bunia.

According to the Djugu territory Member of Parliament, Bura Pulunyo, elections should be repeated in Fataki. However, the electoral commission which has the sole mandate to decide on this, has not yet responded.

Vote counting is continuing after Sunday's poll.

The elections presented a special challenge for the government in Ituri as the area has remained an active militia zone since 1999.

Spanning 65,000 square kilometres, the district has had seven militia leaders. They include Thomas Lubanga, the leader of L'Union des patriotes congolais, who has since been arrested by the International Criminal Court based in the Hague, and Kahwa Panga Mandro of the Parti pour l'Unité et la Sauvegarde de l'Intégrité congolaise, who is imprisoned in Bunia.

At least 15,000 militiamen have been disarmed in the Congo since April 2004 according to the United Nations Mission in the Congo, MONUC, the national army, the UN Children's Fund and the militia groups themselves.

In June, with the militias remaining active, and one month to the first round of the presidential elections, the government appointed Gen Mbuayama Nsiona the Ituri zone commander to ensure security during the elections. Six military brigades were also deployed for this mission.

So far, Karim, the FNI leader, is still active in the region of Nioka, 120 kilometres northeast of Bunia; along with Matthieu Ngujolo, the leader of the Mouvements Révolutionnaires congolais, and Cobra Matata of the Fronts des Resistants Patriotiques en Ituri.


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