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Father of Child Soldier Testifies

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) Tuesday that his son was kidnapped on the way home from school by soldiers of Thomas Lubanga’s militia and taken to a training camp.

“This made me very angry…. The child was only 11-years-old,” the father told the prosecutor, Manoj Sachdeva. “Being a soldier is very hard,” he said, adding that if the son continued, it would be “spoiling his life.”

The witness remained anonymous, but was identified as the father of a child soldier who last week recanted his story of being kidnapped by Lubanga’s militia.

The young man was not allowed to continue on the witness stand, pending further investigation.

The father told the court he also was a soldier in Lubanga’s militia and worked in the Ituri region’s town of Bunia as Lubanga’s personal bodyguard when his son was taken from their village at the end of 2002.

The man learned of his son’s kidnapping after it had happened, he said.

“The first thing I wanted was to leave everything to see my son,” he said. “[But] I was the bodyguard of my leader [Lubanga]. How could I leave my leader to see my child? It was impossible.”

However, the witness said he left Bunia around February 2003, when he learned that his son was in a training camp in Bule, a town in Ituri. The man saw his son at a nearby market, where the son was on an excursion with his captain and other soldiers.

“How is it possible for a child who is 11 to carry a weapon [that weighs four kilos]?” the witness asked. “When he saw me, he remembered that in my home, he was free.”

The witness said his son did not discuss his military training, but agreed to return with his father to Bunia.

The boy returned to school, but when he was recognized by other militia soldiers while visiting a relative, he was considered a deserter, his father said.

“[My son] fell into an ambush,” he continued. “The UPC [Union of Congolese Patriots] soldiers arrested and beat him. He bears a scar to this day on his calf.”

The father told the court he paid money for his son’s return.

The ICC’s victims’ representative, Luc Walleyn, asked the witness about the “consequences” that his son suffered from being a child soldier.

The witness replied that his son has now abandoned his studies and is more “headstrong” than before. “Quite simply, he is my first son. All my hopes were laid on him.”

When Marc Desalliers, one of Lubanga’s defense lawyers, asked the witness about his initial contact with ICC investigators, he appeared confused, accusing Desalliers of “tormenting” him, and did not answer the question.

Before the court moved into private session, the witness said that he never discussed with his son what he had spoken about with the ICC investigators.

“I don’t get along well with my son anymore,” the father said.