A video shown in court on Monday depicted defendant Thomas Lubanga visiting a military training camp and delivering a speech to a large group of soldiers and recruits.
“The youngest [recruits] were about nine years old,” an unnamed witness told the court, speaking in French with his face and voice digitally distorted.
The witness said he was at the video-recorded event, although his exact role with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) was not disclosed.
The video depicted Lubanga surrounded by a large group of people, many of whom appeared to be small children.
The witness said the new recruits were those who wore civilian clothes and carried long sticks, while the more experienced soldiers had uniforms and guns.
Lubanga led the group in song before launching into a speech about the importance of being “courageous” in battle.
“This type of work is of great importance,” Lubanga told the crowd. “It can involve suffering.”
Lubanga also told the crowd that the UPC did not “belong to one ethnic group.”
Since the UPC is alleged to have targeted people of the Lendu ethnicity, Prosecutor Olivia Struyven asked the witness if Lubanga’s statement was true.
“Yes,” replied the witness. “But there was a dominant ethnic group.”
That group, he said, was Hema, with other ethnicities represented in smaller numbers.
The witness also identified Bosco Ntaganda in the video. Ntaganda was the deputy chief of general staff for the UPC’s military arm, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC). He is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Earlier in his testimony, the witness said that he visited Lubanga’s residence in the city of Bunia on several occasions. He said the defendant had many bodyguards of different ages.
“The youngest were perhaps nine or ten years old,” he said. “The oldest were adults.”
The witness will continue his testimony on Tuesday.