(Oct. 6, 2008) On September 30, 2008, a court in Matadj County, in the western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sentenced nine people convicted of criminal conspiracy, taking part in a movement, and rebellion. Four others were acquitted. The nine were followers of the Bundu Dia Kongo sect, a political and religious movement whose name means “Kingdom of the Kongo.” Members have renounced both traditional Western and Eastern religions and advocate the restoration of the ancient Kongo Kingdom. This kingdom would have pre-colonial boundaries, including sections of what is today Angola, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), and Gabon. The group has had clashes with government forces as long ago as 2002.
The nine defendants were given sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison or the payment of fines of 20,000 Congolese francs (about US$48). Twenty-one members of the group had been arrested in March 2008, during a military operation to re-establish the government¿s authority in Bas Congo Province, but only 13 were present in court for this sentencing. Of the others, one was in a hospital, three had escaped from a hospital, and four died in prison. (Court Sentences Western DRCongo Sect Followers, RADIO OKAPI (in French), Oct. 1, 2008, Open Source Center No. AFP 20081001950057; Bundu dia Kongo (Kingdom of Kongo), GLOBALSECURITY.ORG, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/bundu-dia-kongo.htm (last visited Oct. 1, 2008).)