This biggest man around town in the DRC Capital Kinshasa is Thomas Lubanga the founder of a political movement known as the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
Lubanga has been languishing at the maximum Makala prison in Kinshasa for almost five years.
Before being flown in to Malaka Prison, Lubanga had also served another jail term in The Hague where he was prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for the recruitment and conscription of children under the age of 15 and for having them participate in hostilities.
On July 10, 2012, he was sentenced to a total sentence of 14 years. The verdict and the sentence were confirmed by the Appeals Chamber on December 1, 2014. Thomas Lubanga was finally transferred on December 19, 2015 to Kinshasa to serve his prison sentence.
Lubanga walked out of the Malaka Prison gates on Sunday welcomed by his wife and seven children including other close relatives and massive supporters and members of the UPC movement that has been slightly active.
In front of family members, activists and other relatives, Papy Serge Mayamba, one of Thomas Lubanga’s lawyers and member of his party, presented him as a victim and an innocent man.
A special mass was said this Sunday March 15 at the Notre Dame de Fatima parish in Kinshasa to celebrate the release of Thomas Lubanga from prison after 14 years of imprisonment.
Thomas Lubanga said that he would pardon all those who, directly or indirectly, were involved in his imprisonment.
“The freedom recovered to date is not greeted with a spirit of revenge or hatred. This is why our president grants his sincere paternal forgiveness to all those who directly or indirectly collaborated in the occurrence of this suffering”.
“To the peoples and leaders of Africa, the cultural context in which we live is a fundamental factor which we must take into account, especially in the settlement of our differences. This aspect deserves to be pondered by those who are called to say the law. To ignore it is to fall without hesitation into absolute arbitrariness,” He said.
He also added, “Delivering one’s compatriot to humans who have no control over the cultural aspect mentioned above exposes the person being prosecuted to being the victim of prejudice.”
According to his lawyer Muyamba, Lubanga was a guinea pig “for the experimentation of a newly created institution, the ICC”. After 14 years behind bars, a particularly painful moment, he added, Thomas Lubanga has not blamed himself until now.
According to him, this ex-war chief was the victim of false testimony. However, he thanked his counsel, his lawyers who defended him “unfortunately, without being heard because the satisfaction of certain interests made the Court deaf and blind to the arguments and evidence brandished by its legal scholars”.
Lubanga is a resident of Benin where fighting between the Congolese Armed Forces are engaged in a tough fight against Ugandan rebels the Allied Democratic Front (ADF).
After his release the warlord said, he was saddened by the fact that Ituri region where he hails from was still unstable and thought that sacrificing himself for apprehension would have brought peace in his home area.