DRC: accused war criminal becomes defense chief

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi appointed former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba as defense minister and deputy prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle on March 24. Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006, was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2016 of crimes against humanity over atrocities allegedly committed by rebels under his command when they intervened in the conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but the court overturned his sentence on appeal in 2018. However, five defendants were convicted on charges related to obstruction of justice in the Bemba case. (AfricaNewsFrance24)

The cabinet shuffle comes amid continued escalating violence in the DRC's east. On March 27, CODECO insurgents killed at least 17 people taken hostage the previous day in the Djugu territory, around 45 kilometers north of Bunia in Ituri province, local authorities report. (France24) Over 20 civilians are reported killed over the past days in attacks by the M23 rebels on five villages in Mahagi territory, also in Ituri province. (VOA)