At the conclusion of his testimony today, the eighth witness called by the defense of war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba reiterated that the accused’s troops deployed in a 2002-2003 armed conflict fell under the command of General Ferdinand Bombayake, the head of the presidential guard of the Central African Republic (CAR).
‘Witness D04-64’ is a former official in the government of Ange-Félix Patassé, who was deposed in March 2003. Some of his evidence was heard in closed session, so it was not known what exact position he held. In open court, his image and voice were distorted in order to protect his identity.
Under questioning by Assingambi Zarambaud, a lawyer for victims, the witness said it was because President Patassé had “confidence” in General Bombayake that he placed the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops under his command.
“At the time, the president couldn’t trust the head of staff of the FACA (Forces Armées Centrafricaines),” the witness said.
The insurgency against Mr. Patassé was led by the sacked former chief of staff of FACA, François Bozizé, who defected with several soldiers from the national army.
Yesterday, the witness recalled the arrival of the MLC and the logistical support provided to them by Central African authorities, such as uniforms, communication devices, weapons, vehicles, and a monetary allowance.
Mr. Zarambaud asked the witness whether the MLC would have been able to use their own equipment to communicate with their Congolese headquarters at Gbadolite, or it would have been necessary for CAR officials to set the frequencies.
“Yes,” responded the witness. He continued, “It would have been impossible for the communications to go through. If you take a radio set to the other side [of the border], the signal doesn’t go across.”
The trial has previously heard that Mr. Bemba had a communication center a few meters from his residence at Gbadolite, which is located a few kilometers south of the Central African border, from which operators allegedly received daily reports via radio about operations in the CAR.
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charge that widespread murder, looting, and rape characterized the MLC’s progression in the conflict country. As their commander-in-chief, Mr. Bemba is being tried at The Hague-based court for failing to stop or punish his troops. The former vice president of Congo has pleaded not guilty, arguing that it was Central African authorities, not him, who commanded the troops on the frontline.
The trial continues tomorrow morning with testimony from a new witness going by the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-51.′