Prosecutors in the trial of accused militia leader Thomas Lubanga on Friday presented their fourth former child soldier, who told the court that he volunteered for the militia.
“We had nothing to do, so we went with [the soldiers],” the witness told Prosecutor Julieta Solano McCausland.
The witness agreed to use the pseudonym “Patrick” while giving his evidence. He spoke in Swahili with face and voice distortion, and was shielded from Lubanga’s direct view.
Patrick explained that his fourth-grade education was interrupted due to the war in Ituri. As a result, he spent time in other villages “digging for gold,” until the day he encountered a vehicle of soldiers from the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC).
“I was with friends and suddenly we saw group of soldiers coming,” he said. “Some of us ran away.”
The ones who ran away, he explained, knew the soldiers were coming to take them. Others, like, him “knew nothing about the situation and stayed there.”
“At that point in time, did you understand what military service was?” asked Solano McCausland.
“No,” the witness said.
Still, he insisted it was his choice to go with the soldiers.
“I was not enlisted by force and I wish to confirm that,” he said.
The soldiers, Patrick said, took him and the other young recruits to a training camp in the village of Bule.
He was not able to give the ages of the other children in the camp, but said that some were his size, while others were a bit bigger.
They immediately began training to use weapons, he said.
“We shot with guns,” he said. “We used bullets.”
Like previous witnesses, Patrick said the girl recruits made food and were the wives of superior officers.
“…The officers would sleep with these women,” he explained.
“Did you ever speak to any of the women about them sleeping with commanders?” asked Solano McCausland.
“No,” answered the witness.
The former child soldier continues his testimony next week.