By Staff Writer
Thomas Lubanga, the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) is facing life in prison after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague today (Wednesday) convicted him of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Looking smart in an ivory-coloured robe and a gold skull cap, Mr Lubanga showed no emotion as British Judge Sir Adrian Bruce Fulford pronounced the conviction after a trial that has lasted three days short of six years.
Born in Djiba in the Ituri Province in the DRC, Lubanga, 51, was the military commander and Defence Minister in the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement, a rebel group then supported by neighbouring Uganda before founding the UPC 10 years ago. He is said to have had at one time, 3000 child soldiers aged between eight and 15 years of age.
Between February 18 and March 3, 2003, the UPC allegedly destroyed 26 villages killing at least 350 people and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. In March 2003, Ugandan soldiers forced the UPC out of Bunia forcing Lubanga to relocate to Kinshasa where he registered the UPC as a political party. During the same month, Lubanga was finally arrested in connection with the killing of Bangladeshi peace keepers working under the United Nations.