Why did Congolese soldiers kill a surrendered militia leader?

Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Radio Okapi

The death of a Congolese militia leader who surrendered to the military is raising serious questions.

A brutal militia leader known as Morgan surrendered to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Saturday. He was joined by somewhere around 40 of his militia members.

He was killed during a firefight while being transported to be taken in by the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo. According to the government, Morgan and some of his men tried to escape from the soldiers providing escort.

“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende to Reuters on Monday.

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The injuries suffered by Morgan turned out to be fatal. The Reuters report says that a total of five people were killed.

According to a report published in the French-language RFI and sources who spoke to Humanosphere off the record, that is not the whole story. It is believed that the rest of the militia members were killed during the incident. The UN is conducting an immediate investigation to track down the surrendered fighters and try to determine how Morgan was killed.

“There is a worry that other warlords will not come forward to surrender because it is unclear what happened to Morgan,” said a UN official to Reuters on Tuesday.

Details remain scant at the moment, with the majority of information coming from the Congolese government. The veracity of the story put forth by the government is deserving of scrutiny given the contradictory reports elsewhere. Commentators have questioned why Morgan would try to escape after having surrendered under his own will.

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Morgan, born Paul Sadala, was a poacher operating out of eastern DR Congo. He and his militia members started attacking gold mines in December. They carried out brutal attacks, then kidnapping, enslaving and raping women. According to Reuters, a UN report from last July said “that former captives had told them the group, known as “Mai Mai Morgan”, had engaged in cannibalism on several occasions.”

An arrest warrant was issued for Morgan in November 2012 by the Congolese government. He was accused of carrying out war crimes and committing sexual violence.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.