Bemba Gombo, Jean-Pierre

Bemba Gombo, Jean-Pierre, 1962–, Congolese politician. Born to wealthy parents, he was educated in Brussels and built a business empire in what was then Zaïre. In the early 1990s he was personal assistant to President Mobutu Sese Seko. During the 1998–2003 civil war, Bemba headed a Uganda-backed rebel faction, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), which seized large portions of E Congo. In 2002 he was recruited by Central African Republic's President Patassé to put down a coup attempt, and in the process MLC troops are alleged to have looted, killed civilians, and raped hundreds of women. In 2003 Bemba was the first rebel to sign a peace treaty with President Joseph Kabila, making the MLC a Congolese political party and Bemba a vice-president.

After Bemba lost (2006) the presidential election to Kabila, fighting broke out (2007) between his forces and the Congolese army. Accused of treason, Bemba fled to Europe, where in 2008 he was arrested on International Criminal Court charges arising from the events in 2002 and was extradited to the Hague. He was found guilty in 2016 of crimes against humanity and war crimes, but the verdict was overturned in 2018. Bemba returned to Congo-Kinshasa and declared his candidacy for president, but was barred because of a second conviction (2016), for interfering with witnesses in his war crimes trial.

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