Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was born on 29 December 1960 in Djiba in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He belongs to the Hema ethnic group.
After completing his studies at the University of Kisangani, where he obtained a degree in Psychology, Lubanga held a position as assistant at the University of Cepromad between 1990 and 1994. During this same period, he had other lucrative activities in a variety of areas such as agriculture or gold trading. From 1986 until 1997, he reportedly headed an organisation called “Votura”.
Thomas Lubanga turned to politics at the end of 1999 and soon thereafter was elected a member of the Ituri district parliament.
On 15 September 2000, he founded the “Union des Patriotes Congolais” (UPC), becoming its President, as well as its armed wing the “Forces Patriotiques pour la Liberation du Congo (FPLC) of which he became the Commander-in-Chief.
In 2001, Thomas Lubanga was appointed National Deputy Secretary for Youth and Sport of the “Front for the Liberation of Congo” (FLC) and Military Commander of the Rally for Congolese Democracy – Liberation Movement (RCD-ML), a rebel movement with close links to Uganda.
In August 2002, the UPC gained control of the town of Bunia. In September of the same year the movement was re-named the “Union des Patriotes Congolais/Reconciliation et Paix (UPC/RP). Thomas Lubanga assumed the presidency and appointed, by decree, the principle members of the executive committee for Ituri. By a second decree he founded, in an official manner, the FPLC and continued to assume the position as its Commander-in-Chief.
Even before the creation of the FPLC, it was alleged that the UPC actively recruited children under the age of 15 years and forced them to undergo military training mainly at its camp at Sota. This practice became more systematic after the creation of the FPLC. The children allegedly were forced to participate in hostilities, particularly by becoming bodyguards to high ranking officers in the FPLC. As President of the UPC and Commander-in-Chief of the FPLC, Thomas Lubanga was said to be aware of such practices and to have encouraged them, especially between September 2002 and 13 August 2003, during the armed conflict in Ituri.
The UPC was also accused of the massacre of civilians in Ituri, in particular in the region of Bunia, the main town in the district of the Eastern Province in 2002. Between 2002 and 2003, more than 800 civilians were said to have been killed by the UPC in the mining town of Mongbwalu and the adjacent villages. Civilians of Lendu origin were said to have been especially targeted. Ituri, a region which is rich in raw materials, was the scene of violent confrontation between different militia forces leading to massacres and the enforced displacement of civilian populations.
According to Radio Okapi, the radio station of the United Nations Mission to the RDC (MONUC), Thomas Lubanga was said to have decreed that each family living in the zones under his control was under the strict obligation to contribute to the war effort by donating either a cow, money, or even a child who then had to join the rebel ranks of his militia forces.
Thomas Lubanga was arrested on 19 March 2005 and imprisoned in Makala, Kinshasa.
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