Arusha, July 11, 2012 (FH) - The Democratic Republic of Congo Tuesday welcomed as a “positive signal” the 14-year sentence given by the International Criminal Court to warlord Thomas Lubanga, Radio Okapi reported.

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“It's useful in teaching those who, after Lubanga, still play at being untouchable warlords. It's a positive signal for the future of peace in our region,” said Lambert Mende, a Congolese government spokesman.

Lubanga, 51, was convicted on March 14 of war crimes, specifically for using child soldiers in his rebel army in DRC's northeastern Ituri region in 2002-03, in the ICC's first verdict since it started work a decade ago.

Lambert Mende added that the government would have preferred the court to convict him for all the crimes allegedly committed under his command.  “He only faced the one charge of recruiting child soldiers. We note simply that crime doesn't pay, and regardless of the low sentence against Lubanga,” Mende added.

Lubanga’s party, Union of Congolese patriots, declared that it was a victory against former Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who had asked for a 30-year term. “It confirmed us in our decision to file an appeal to obtain an acquittal for Lubanga”, interim UCP President John Tinanzabo explained.

According to Bunia’s Civil Society President Jean Bosco Lalo, masse crimes are still being perpetrated in both Kivus.