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Profile: DR Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga

Thomas Lubanga (file picture, 2003)
Thomas Lubanga was born in Ituri - a region rich in gold

Thomas Lubanga led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), an ethnic Hema militia which was active in the war that started in the Ituri region in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999.

He was indicted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting and sending children under 15 years old to the battlefield.

The military wing of the UPC, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), was one of six militia groups that fought for control of the gold-rich Ituri region until 2003.

The war, which began as a struggle for the control of land and resources, deteriorated as arms proliferated and members of the Ugandan army became involved.

This turned a local dispute into an inter-ethnic war that killed an estimated 50,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

In 2002, his Ugandan-backed forces seized the Ituri capital, Bunia, after fighting in which many civilians were killed.

The UPC leader's fortunes begun to fade in the summer of 2003.

Massacre

The war in Ituri was still raging and because it was ignored by the Congolese peace process, French troops were deployed in the regional capital, Bunia.

Mr Lubanga, who had allegedly masterminded the massacre of more than 400 people, started to lose his grip on the region very quickly.

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The UPC leader, born in 1960, once told a UN mission: "What is important is to judge each group on its actions. Those who have committed genocide or massacres have to be punished."

Of course, he was referring to other militia groups that he held responsible for the atrocities committed in Ituri.

In March 2005, he was arrested by UN peacekeepers, along with other militiamen.

He was first put up and guarded in one of Kinshasa's most luxurious hotels.

But after a few months, he was transferred to Kinshasa's central jail.

In March 2006, as he waved goodbye to Congolese soil for possibly the last time, he cried as he boarded a French army plane that flew him to The Hague where the ICC is based.



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