, GOMA, Dec 23 – The Congolese army on Monday arrested a rebel leader whose militia has been accused of committing war crimes in the east of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo, sources said.
Kakule Muhima, head of a Mai Mai militia known by his nickname Shetani (Satan), was arrested in Kiwanja, a town in the volatile, resource rich province of North Kivu, Jean Claude Bambanze, civil society leader for the Rutshuru region where Kiwanja is located, said in a statement.
Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Amuli confirmed the arrest, telling AFP that Muhima would be brought before a military tribunal in the eastern DR Congo’s main city Goma, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Kiwanja, “at the first opportunity”.
Bambanze said Muhima was arrested “after looting money, telephones and other items of value from five houses” in a part of Kiwanja where the UN mission to the DR Congo has a large base.
The area was retaken by the DR Congo army after it defeated the M23 rebel movement early last month.
Shetani’s fighters had repeatedly engaged in territorial battles with the M23 during which they committed “many crimes” including “torture, sexual violence (and killings)”, Bambanze said.
The M23, which was suspected of being backed by Rwanda and Uganda and held Goma for 10 days in late 2012, surrendered on November 5 after a major army offensive backed by a UN intervention force.
The region has rich deposits of minerals including gold and coltan, a key component in electronic devices, but is ravaged by rebels and militia who rape and murder with impunity, according to rights groups.
Kinshasa has urged dozens of armed groups still active in the area to lay down their arms or face the same fate as the M23.
Several thousand fighters have complied since then, but Kinshasa pledged that sexual violence, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide would not go unpunished.
Mai Mai groups have a fierce reputation based partly on their belief that they can dodge bullets if they sprinkle themselves with sacred water before battle.