Six men from the Democratic Republic of Congo were sentenced to life imprisonment by the military court in Kinshasa, the capital, for the murder of Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio, carabiniere Vittorio Iacovacci and Mustapha Milambo, driver of the World Food Program (WFP, the UN agency that deals with food assistance). Attanasio and the others were killed on February 22, 2021 in an armed attack in North Kivu province in eastern Congo.
According to the ruling, the six men, all Congolese, were part of a criminal gang that attacked humanitarian convoys circulating in the region with the aim of carrying out robberies and kidnappings. Of the six men convicted, only five were present at trial. Marc Prince Nshimimana was missing, who according to the Congolese prosecutor’s office was the head of the criminal gang: he was never arrested and was convicted in absentia of murder.
However, there are some controversies surrounding the process. Some of the convicted defendants, who had been arrested in early 2022, initially confessed to the murders of Attanasio and the others, but later withdrew the confessions, claiming they had been coerced. The defense has announced that the defendants will present an appeal.
Kinshasa is not the only trial linked to the deaths of Attanasio, Ioacovacci and Milambo. Preliminary hearings in the trial against Rocco Leone and Mansour Luguru Rwagaza, two leaders of the World Food Program who organized the mission which was later attacked, should begin in Rome in May. The two were accused of manslaughter because they allegedly committed serious negligence and irregularities that would have contributed to making the expedition during which Attanasio was later killed unsafe and unprotected.
At the time of the armed attack, Attanasio was traveling in a UN convoy along the road linking the cities of Goma and Rutshuru, in the eastern part of the country, a large area where there have been wars, ethnic conflicts and territorial invasions by neighboring states. The road on which the convoy was traveling crosses the Virunga National Park, a vast nature reserve located a few kilometers from Uganda and Rwanda, where several militias are active fighting to gain control over the lands and natural resources of eastern Congo .